Animals and deadly force

If you follow my Facebook page, you’ll know that I recently added a new member to the team. He’s a boxer/pitbull mix that we named Ruger, because that’s just a great name for a dog.

my dog

This brought up an interesting conversation on lethal force, pets, and animals. There are a lot of different directions to go with this, and we’ll probably revisit this conversation again later. There are four parts of this topic that I’ve identified:

  1. Using force to defend your pet from other animals
  2. Using force to defend your pet from people
  3. Using force to defend yourself against someone’s animal
  4. Using force to defend yourself against an animal’s owner

There are sub-tangents in those, but today I want to tackle number one and two. I’m doing this with the clear statement that I am not a lawyer, so what I want to do is have a discussion of deadly force and provide you with my opinion, based on conversations and research. Definitely not legal advice. So first we’ll look at defending your pet from other animals.

There roughly two categories of “other animals” that could attack your pet. The first are actual wild animals, such as coyotes, mountain lions, racoons, etc. While there may be game regulations around shooting those animals, generally speaking if they’re on your property and attacking a domestic pet you’re probably okay. Note the qualifiers “generally” and “probably.” Be knowledgeable of your local game ordinances. A far more likely scenario is that you’ll be out walking your dog (or cat, if you’re a weirdo because who walks their cat) and encounter an aggressive off-leash dog whose owner isn’t paying attention.

Again, in general most deadly force statutes allow you to use justifiable force in your own defense or the defense of other human beings. While letting an aggressive dog run around off-leash is irresponsible, it is quite likely not a legally justifiable reason for you to draw your gun. Don’t shoot people’s dogs unless that dog is presenting a credible threat of danger to you or someone you’re with. This is however a good reason to carry some sort of OC/pepper spray. Pepper spray is a very effective deterrent against hostile dogs, frequently moreso than it is on humans. If your dog is being charged by an aggressive off-leash dog, it’s a much better choice for everyone involve to OC the dog.

Now, the hard part. Defending your dog against hostile people. My dog is a pitbull, which means he attracts attention from people who would like to use him for things that are frequently illegal. If I’m walking with my dog on a leash, and someone attempts to attack my dog/steal my dog, they would have to also inflict considerable injury on me, because I don’t want my dog stolen. In this case, you’re looking at someone committing assault and robbery against you, regardless of the item they’re attempting to steal. If you’re in credible fear of death or grievous bodily harm in that situation, then you are likely justified using deadly force.

The items discussed today are pretty straightforward. To condense them to basics guidelines: 1) Don’t shoot other people’s pets, no matter how undisciplined they are, and 2) If someone is attacking/stealing your dog while you’re walking the dog, they’re probably attacking you too.

Again, I’m not a lawyer. These are my opinions, not sound legal advice. Don’t go around looking for people to shoot. Every gunfight that never happens is a gunfight you won.


  1. It is important to note that the vast majority of “vicious” dogs will not actually bite humans without additional provocation. And if they do, it is rarely fatal (and those cases are mostly with small children).

    It is fairly often for them to go after other dogs/cats/pets with much less control. If you have a dog, learn how to break up a dog fight without getting yourself bitten. The vast majority of the dog bites I have seen in rescue and dog parks came from when two dogs got into a fight and the people around threw themselves in the middle of it instead of breaking it up safely.

      1. Waterhose. But most people don’t carry those with them.Sometimes just distracting them works. And the best way if you must physically intervene is to have a partner and you both grab a dog by the hips at the same time (think wheelbarrow) and drag them apart.

        1. Oh, and those of us who’ve trained police dogs tend to just get in there and scruff both of them. Not recommended for those who don’t understand alpha status among dogs.

      2. Get behind them and pick them up by the back paws. It totally disrupts them and they can’t get to you. Hold on tight so the don’t kick free and dram them away.

        Also, if I recall correctly from my time in Nevada, they allow for the use of lethal force to protect your own life, the life of another, or your property. My dogs are my property so #2 is GTG in Nevada.

  2. I would throw out that if the dog attacking your dog is easily capable of killing your dog outright, say a pit bull vs a poodle, and/or is capable of hurting or killing you as well if you try to break up the fight, then going to guns is pretty well accepted, at least locally, as being GTG

    1. This implies pit bulls are inherently dangerous and aggressive, which could not be further from the truth. A simple Google search will tell you, poodles are instinctive hunters and are considered “man stoppers” by those that train personal protection dogs. In fact, standard poodles were one of 32 breeds classified as “war dogs” during WW2.

    2. Just want to say: I’ve been attacked by a poodle, they’re effing scary. Never had a pitbull make so much as a mean face at me. I would be nervous to have my dog near a poodle.

  3. Caleb that is a beautiful dog!! If you breed him I’ll buy one of the male pups! Have raised boxers and Pitts. Best dogs around. On my personal property any animal that attacks me/dog or cats gets a bullet in them If they are capable of harming or killing any of us!!

  4. Not much to add, save for the fact that our last dog was a boxer/pit mix. Great, gentle dog.

  5. There is also the problem of firing into a furball that includes your dog. Not something I want to do. My first recourse is to try to intimidate the other dog which almost always works. Pepper spray not very useful in the wind and I lack confidence, having dumped a whole can of LE grade OC on a dog with no effect. I know I hit because it had orange die. An animal control officer I discussed the issue with preferred a baton to OC or taser.

  6. OC did not work on my daughters Pit. We dumped a whole can in its face and it did not faze him until the cat ran out of lives. Only then did he run around the yard, visibly irritated.

  7. Our kids grew up with a Boxer/Pitbull mix from the time Zip was a little bitty pup, and the kids were 3 or 4. She was the greatest dog we could have had for them to go through their young lives with.

Comments are closed.