Federal Trial Of Officers Accused Of Shooting Family Dog In Unlawful Search

We have been following the continuing line of cases of police officers shooting pets during raids or investigations. The latest is in Hartford where two police officers shot a family dog in front of a 12-year-old girl after entering the residence of the Harris family without a warrant. They claim the St. Bernard named Seven snarled and charged at them when the entered the yard. Officers John O’Hare and Anthony Pia are defendants in the trial.


The federal trial just began in Hartford over the 2006 shooting.

The family will present evidence that Seven was known as a gentle dog without any history of biting or snarling.

The girl had an extremely close relationship with Seven. The officers said that they were investigating a claim that there were two guns stashed in a car on the property. When they came around the house into the yard without a warrant, the girl, listed in the complaint as K.H., ran around the other side of the house to hold Seven. However, before she got there, the officer shot the dog. When she got to the yard the officer were standing over Seven who was still breathing. She reportedly screamed “Don’t shoot my dog.” One officer allegedly then shot the dog a third time in the head and told her that the dog wouldn’t have made it.

It was O’Hara who shot the dog from about 3 feet away. Pia supported O’Hara’s account that the dog was trying to bite him on the legs. Neither officer mentions the delay before the third shot or the girl being present.

The fact that this was arguably an illegal search adds an interesting dimension to the case. Except for the driveway, the property is enclosed by fences or gates with “Beware of Dog” signs. A “knock and announce” with a warrant might have allowed the family to retrieve the dog. The question is why the officer elected to discard the need for a warrant and simply enter the property unannounced.

Source: Courant

37 thoughts on “Federal Trial Of Officers Accused Of Shooting Family Dog In Unlawful Search”

  1. There are several scholars who say that the Framers of the Second Amendment were dyslexic on the day that they put that one into ink and that they meant to arm bears, not give people the right to bear arms. That being said, this dog would like some retribution if the civil lawsuit does not result in a large judgment against the dog killers. The jury can put a value on that dog and they can put a value on the intrusion into the home, the yard, and the civil rights of the kid to peaceful enjoyment of her premises. Punitives could be upheld on appeal if they do not exceed an amount that would deter other armed piglets from doing the same thing. Then there is the other element, and this one we need to encourage lawyers to take on dog cases like this, that is Section 1988 of the Civil Rights Act which provides for the losing defendants and their municipality and the supervisors of dog killers one and two, to pay the attorney fees.

    I am assuming that this is a civil rights action being pursued here under Title 42 United States Code, Section 1983, 1985 and 1988. Maybe someone can find this on Pacer.

    Someone might tell the blog here where the cops live so that some local dogs can go out and poop in their yards late at night and also give a round to City Hall.

  2. Postal workers encounter snarling dogs every day and they never find it necessary to shoot them.

    Neighbors encounter snarling dogs and only rarely shoot them. When they do shoot them, they are frequently charged with felonies.

    Shouldn’t we require police officers to be at least as competent as postal workers. Don’t we have an obligation to hold officers, who receive special training, to a higher standard than we hold neighbors?

    Police officers who are so incompetent that they cannot enter property without shooting the dogs ought, at the very least, loose their police power

  3. Do these police criminals know what kind of permanent trauma they’ve inflicted on this poor family? It’s so not smart to hire sociopaths as officers.

  4. Gene and Mike S.,
    you are correct about St. Bernards. They are very gentle. The only way that they would hurt you is by knocking you down to lick your face.

  5. Mike,

    Second that on the St. Bernards. Although I’ve had 20 plus years less time for exposure to the breed, I’d say I’ve known more than an average number of them. Not a mean one in the bunch.

  6. Oro and Gene,

    My first thought too. The second is that in all my 67 years I have never encountered a vicious St. Bernard.

  7. Oro,

    How sad is it that I had the exact same initial response to this story as you did?

    1. Police lie so much, especially where they have a vested interest, that I have a hard time believing them at all. I would believe a cop IF he has no personal stake or interest in the matter at hand. If they have a real interest in making a case on their word alone, that cop had better have something tangible to back him up other than another cops word.

  8. Gotta go with Oro Lee on this one as that was my first thought.

    From the Courant source: “The suit claims that O’Hare’s actions were “so extreme, callous and outrageous that they fell outside the scope of acceptable police behavior,” in violation of the due-process clause of the Constitution.”

    It’s rather interesting that in Pia/O’Hare’s initial report there is nothing about a pause between the second and third shots or the girl witnessing the shooting.

  9. Shooting a dog with a kid standing right next to it… Yeah, that’s safe and intelligent!

  10. Is it standard procedure for cops to shoot first and ask questions later? I think Oro is correct. We are at the point that I am surprised that the young girl was not shot or tazed for coming to help the criminal dog! These officers and their superiors should pay dearly. I would hope that in a rule of law world, these officers would have been fired long ago.

  11. It’s gotten to the point that my first response to the story is, “Thank God they didn’t shoot the little girl!”

  12. The dog was doing its job. The cops were not. Idiots. I’m sure that family is devastated at the loss of a family member.

  13. If this were a police state, this trial would NOT be happening. Instead, the family would be in prison for protesting against the cops.

  14. What are the recoursses for a citizen when cops make an illegal search and/or break into your house and cause damage? Is it possible to bring criminal charges against the police even if the DA refuses to charge or indict them? Can one legally use deadly force against crooked cops when they are committing a crime?

  15. Police are supposedly there to protect us. Hah!

    I am fed up. This is a Polizei State and they seem to do what they will.

    Enough is enough. What has become of my country?

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