A recent article we did on defending yourself against dog attacks continues to generate questions from our members, so in this follow-up video, Independent Program Attorney Edwin Walker, of the law firm of Walker & Byington, goes into more detail about various aspects of legal dog defense. A transcript appears below the video.
In the event that an individual is out walking their dog in their neighborhood or going for a jog in the park and they are attacked by a dog who is clearly intent on doing them or their dog or someone else harm, can they use deadly force to defend themselves against the dog?
The answer is yes, they can.
However, they need to be ready to answer some very serious questions, and they need to be able to demonstrate that an ordinary person in that same circumstance would have viewed the use of deadly force as being immediately necessary and the threat to the individual as being of such severity that it warranted the injury or the killing of the dog.
First, the law will look at: Was the killing or injuring of the dog necessary?
If the answer to that is yes, then you’ll move to the second question: Was the use of a firearm necessary to do it? This will look at whether or not there were any other factors that may have gone into this. Could the individual have fended off the dog without using any weapon? Could the individual have fended off the dog with some other type of non-firearm weapon that was available to them?
Now, we all know that nobody wants to get into hand-to-hand combat with a vicious dog. So, a firearm usually is the best and most expedient weapon to use in defending against a dog attack. But the firearms issues are ones that are out there for the police and the prosecutors to attempt to exploit. Interestingly, Texas Health & Safety Code in Section 822.013 does allow for an individual to kill a dog or coyote that is attempting to kill either their domestic animal, their livestock or fowl.
However, this section does have some shortcomings. First of all, it does not apply to humans. It only applies to animals. So, it specifically does not allow you to protect yourself or protect another person, including a child, under this provision.
Second, even though it says you’re allowed to kill an attacking dog or coyote, it does not specifically say that the use of a firearm is authorized. Obviously, the firearm is the most expedient way to do it, but this is an issue that could be addressed by law enforcement.
Also, other factors would be considered such as the size of the dog, the breed of the dog, whether the dog has past history of attacking people and obviously whether or not a reasonable person in that circumstance would have viewed the dog with the same level of dangerousness that the individual with who killed the dog did.
We all know that it’s a fact of life, that dogs, whether domestic or feral, will attack human beings; and in those attacks, many of them are repelled by the use of force or deadly force against the dog. However, that does not make the issue very cut and dried in Texas.
One sure way to solve the issue would be if the Texas Legislature did in fact create a general justification statute for the use of force or deadly force against a dog or other attacking animal. This would be applicable not just to the statutes that criminalize hurting or killing animals, but also the statutes which criminalize the use of a firearm, including the displays of a firearm, the discharge of a firearm and where a firearm is discharged, all of which an individual who uses a gun to dispatch the dog could be charged with.