Shooting to defend, or shooting to prevent?

There are many people who are afraid of pit bulls. The dogs have a reputation for biting, and biting hard, sometimes fatally. So it comes as no surprise that a bystander who saw three pit bulls run up to a jogger in Tampa recently felt the need to protect the runner. The animals were not attacking or biting. It will be up to the State Attorney’s Office to decide if shooting two of those dogs, one fatally, was the right response.

The law on use of force, generally speaking, requires a person to be in fear of his life or serious and imminent harm before deadly force can be used. The dogs, two puppies and an adult female, managed to escape their fenced-in yard through a gate that was left open. They ran up to the jogger, who later told police she did not feel threatened, and surrounded her. A neighbor got a gun and ran over to help, chasing the dogs away. As they ran away, the man fired several shots, hitting two of them. A wild shot hit a house in the neighborhood, shattering a glass door but missing a couple and their two children inside. One of the wounded dogs had to be euthanized, the other is recovering from a bullet wound.

The Hillsborough County Sheriff’s Office says it has no complaints on file about the dogs and neither does Animal Control. Neighbors tell a different story. They say the dogs have gotten out before and are more aggressive when they roam as a pack. The owner denies her dogs were aggressive, telling a reporter, “We’ve raised them like kids because they were raised with kids.” The neighbor who fired the shots is unapologetic.

Source: WSTP-TV, “Pit bulls shot after confronting jogger,” Ashley Porter, Nov. 17, 2012