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The Jury Instructions
In relevant part, the jury was instructed as follows:
The Fourth Amendment to the United States Constitution protects
the right of persons to be secure in their persons, houses, papers
and effects, against unreasonable searches and seizures. Plaintiff
claims that his right to be free from unreasonable seizures was
violated when his dog was shot during the execution of a search
warrant for his home. The legality of the search warrant itself is
not an issue in this case. What is at issue is the reasonableness of
the shooting of the dog.
I instruct you as a matter of law that an individual’s interest in his dog falls within the Fourth Amendment’s protection against unreasonable seizures.
In this case, the plaintiff claims that it was unreasonable for Deputy
James Carroll to shoot the dog and that therefore, the shooting of
the dog was an unreasonable seizure under the Fourth Amendment.
The Fourth Amendment’s reasonableness inquiry requires a
balancing of the nature and quality of the intrusion on the
plaintiff’s Fourth Amendment right to be free from unreasonable
seizures against the government’s interest in protecting law
enforcement and citizens from animal attacks. You should
examine the totality of the circumstances to determine whether the
shooting of the dog was reasonably necessary to effectuate the
performance of the law enforcement officer’s duties in executing
the search warrant. To determine whether the shooting caused the
plaintiff to suffer the loss of a federal right, you must determine
whether a reasonable officer would have shot the dog under similar
circumstances. The reasonableness must be judged from the
perspective of a reasonable law enforcement officer on the scene,
rather than with hindsigh
Plaintiff has not cited, nor has this Court found, any Second Circuit authority
identifying the factors that should be considered in determining the reasonableness of a dog
shooting during a warrant execution. Instead, plaintiff relies heavily on a Ninth Circuit decision finding that a search team’s failure to create a “realistic non-lethal plan” for controlling dogs
known to be on the premises prior to executing a knock-and-announce warrant was unreasonable.
San Jose Charter of the Hells Angels Motorcycle Club v. City of San Jose, 402 F.3d 962, 976
(9th Cir. 2005), cert. denied, 546 U.S. 1061 (2005).
In that case, the executing team knew in
advance that guard dogs were present at the homes to be searched and had one full week to plan to execute the warrants. Id. The Court held that the shooting of the dogs was unreasonable – and
qualified immunity properly denied by the district court – where “the full extent of the plan to protect the entry team from the dogs was to either ‘isolate’ or shoot the dogs[, even though] [t]he officers had no specific plan for isolating the dogs.” Id.
Read pg.8-9 for the Court’s reasoning as to why the San Jose case was different than this case and the logic used to find that there was no unreasonableness used.