Dog owner can sue after police killed pets
LAS VEGAS — A woman can sue the North Las Vegas police for killing her 70-pound pit bull and 140-pound mastiff dogs while they executed a search warrant at her home in 2008, an appeals court said.
The 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals ruled 2-1 Thursday that District Judge Larry Hicks was wrong to dismiss Louisa Thurston’s civil rights lawsuit against the Police Department and six officers.
The judges ruled that there were “genuine issues of material fact as to whether the police officers acted reasonably” in killing the dogs, named Blue and Bruno. They noted that police waited 20 minutes after entering the home before opening fire — enough time to summon animal control officers. They also raised questions about whether the dogs, which Thurston said appeared minutes earlier to be happy and “wiggling their tails,” attacked the officers.
“I want these cops held accountable,” Thurston told the Las Vegas Review-Journal. “It is not about money; it was about what they did to my babies. Bruno (the mastiff) was awesome. My dogs did not growl. They did not bark. I don’t want this to happen to other people who love their animals.”
North Las Vegas police spokeswoman Chrissie Conn said the department doesn’t comment on pending litigation.
The incident happened Feb. 8, 2008, while SWAT officers executed a search warrant tied to Thurston’s husband, who was wanted on armed robbery charges.
In a dissenting opinion, Judge Paul Watford wrote that police were executing a high-risk search warrant and guarding a door that the dogs unexpectedly opened with their noses.
“The officers testified without contradiction that the dogs … growled, bared their teeth, and charged at them,” he wrote.
The officers would only be acting unreasonably if they knew the dogs could get into the house and didn’t prevent that from happening, Watford said.