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9th Circuit Rules Police Can Be Sued for Death of Pets

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The US Court of Appeals for the 9th Circuit has reversed the decision of a lower court and ruled on Thursday that District Judge Larry Hicks was wrong when made the summarily dismissed a civil rights lawsuit brought by a Nevada woman whose dogs were shot and killed by police. The court ruled the Las Vegas woman can sue the North Las Vegas Police Department and the six officers involved in the killing of the woman’s pit bull and mastiff dogs.

Louisa Thurston, the owner of the dogs, broke down when recounting the events. “Why did they do it?” she sobbed, “None of them were bitten. They saw them wiggling their tails when they arrived. I begged them not to hurt my dogs.”

  
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Six SWAT officers had gone to Thurston’s home to execute a search warrant against Thurston’s husband on armed robbery charges. The dogs, Blue and Bruno were shot repeatedly and killed by the officers, though the dogs did not exhibit any hostile attitude beyond those ordinarily exhibited at the presence of strangers. Bruno was shot eight times, and the dead dogs were hauled away in plastic bags before the eyes of Thurston and her daughter.

Thurston said, “I want these cops held accountable … It is not about money; it was about what they did to my babies … My dogs did not growl. They did not bark …”

The 9th Circuit held, it is reasonable to infer “the officers had enough time to observe the dogs’ behavior and summon animal control officers.” The court observed there is a “genuine issue of fact as to whether the dogs attacked” the police at all.

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The court also observed that according to the policy of North Las Vegas Police Department, it “dictates attendance, if not participation, of an animal control officer whenever police know there are dogs present inside a home.”

Further, the court said, “The absence of an animal control officer – in contravention of general policy and despite time to summon one after entry – further raises a genuine issue of fact as to the reasonableness of the officers’ actions.”



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