I often get questions about the use of force against dogs. If a dog approaches you, teeth bared, snarling, angry, can you use force against that dog? Under Missouri law, you may be justified in doing so.

If you are in reasonable apprehension of imminent harm, then you may be justified in using deadly force to kill the dog. Also, if a dog has been chasing, killing, harming sheep or other domestic animals, or has been recently engaged in those activities, then you may be justified in killing the dog. However, if the dog is in an enclosure, where it has a lawful right to be, owned by the dog’s owner, then you can’t harm the dog.

What kind of crime could you be charged with if you shoot a dog? The most likely felony charge that would be brought is cruelty to animals. There’s also a misdemeanor charge, animal abuse, which could be brought in a situation where you shot a dog. Now, the question, again, in these types of situations is, “Were you justified?” You could have been completely justified, and you could still be charged, and find yourself in court defending yourself. That’s why you need an experienced attorney to handle your case.

There’s also something called the Doctrine of Necessity. The Doctrine of Necessity underlies the laws of Missouri, that justify the use of force against a dog. If it’s necessary for you to shoot that dog, to prevent it from harming you, someone else, your livestock, or other domestic animals, then you may be justified in doing so.

If you have any questions, please call U.S. LawShield today and ask to speak to an Independent Program Attorney.