Recently, a woman was viciously mauled to death by a wild pack of dogs in Dallas, Texas. Suffering from over 100 bite marks on her person, this is a jolting reminder to everyone that you should always carry your firearm in a legal manner, because you really never know when something or someone will threaten you, your loved ones, or your community.
This news story has raised a few questions: the most important of which is, when are you allowed to use deadly force to defend against a dog attack (or, in this case a pack of dogs)? We talked with Independent Program Attorney Edwin Walker, of the law firm of Walker & Byington, to find out the law.
“Unfortunately, while there is a general justification statute for the use of deadly force against humans when they are trying to kill you, the law does not specifically create a general rule for self-defense against animals,” Edwin said. He elaborated that the law creates a few exceptions for defending your livestock, fowl, and domestic animals, and for defending yourself against “dangerous wild animals” which are lions, tigers, gorillas, etc., Texas law is silent for defending a human against a dog. “It is very bizarre; but because our legislators have left us literally defenseless, we have to rely on the statutory justification of ‘necessity’ if we want to survive in the court room.”
Edwin stated that the defense of necessity kicks in any time the harm you are committing is outweighed by the harm you are stopping; for example, driving over your neighbor’s petunias (a crime of criminal mischief) to avoid running over an errant child.
When it comes to dog attacks, Edwin said, you have to apply the same principle. The harm you’re preventing must outweigh the harm you’re committing. Even though you’re killing a dog, or discharging a firearm within city limits, you are saving the life of yourself, or someone else. “Just make sure that a reasonable person would believe you are actually preventing a harm,” Edwin warned. “If you shoot blind and deaf Chihuahua that is peeing on a tree, from 300 yards away with a .50 caliber rifle, that is not going to be covered under the defense of necessity.”
The common belief that you have to let the dog bite you first is merely a myth, Edwin pointed out. “So long as you are preventing some manner of harm, you should ultimately be justified.” But this doesn’t mean it is going to be an easy trip. “The defense of necessity is just an argument; which means you will have to convince a cop, a D.A., or even a jury that there was about to be an actual harm from the potential dog attack.” While it isn’t a walk in the dog park, it means you don’t have to just roll over and take it.
“All it really comes down to is convincing a jury that you prevented an outcome worse than shooting a dog, like being bitten or killed.” He closed by saying that every dog has his day; just make sure you do, too!