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Self-Defense? Well, Maybe Not…


An incident in my neighborhood a couple of weeks ago illustrates what can happen when emotion overrides common sense. As is often the case in such a situation, only when the details are uncovered does the real story become clear.

Initially, I heard from my neighbor across the street that a man in the neighborhood had “shot a dog” after it allegedly attacked him. Given my background, the story piqued my interest; while walking my own dog and chatting with a few other neighbors, I asked if they had heard anything about the incident.

Most of them had not heard about it, but one man who lives a few houses down from me had. And his information wasn’t second-hand; he actually knew the man involved, who had told him only that he had “shot a problem dog.”

It took a few days before the woman who owned the dog discovered the identity of the man responsible. It was then that she called police, who eventually interviewed the “shooter.” No surprise, the situation turned out to be a lot more complicated than the vague rumors initially indicated.

It all started when the man’s wife took a morning walk, during which time two dogs supposedly frightened her. (I know the two dogs in question, and they are very active and rambunctious, although not at all aggressive.) When the woman returned home from her walk, she told her husband how frightened she had been. Note that the wife was never actually attacked; she had no injuries of any kind — not even a scratch. It should have been a non-event. The man could have simply reported the incident to the police or code-enforcement officials. But for whatever reason, he decided that he was going to do something about it. So he put on his gun (he has a legal Florida carry license) and took his own dog for a walk. He then intentionally went over to where the two “offending” dogs lived.

FYI: The dog belonging to the shooter is one of those annoying “yippy” dogs who barks at every other dog in the neighborhood. No surprise, after several minutes of the man’s dog’s agitated barking, one of the two dogs jumped the fence and came over to engage with the smaller dog.

Dog owners know this is perfectly normal; it does not indicate aggression. It involves little more than sniffing and playful roughhousing. But as the larger dog approached, the man pulled out his gun and shot it in the head.

What is most astonishing about this story is that the man admitted to police exactly what he did. He thought he did nothing wrong! In fact, when the questions came from neighbors about the police cars in front of his house, he told anyone who would listen (including me) the exact same story!

Police requested that the man come down to the station to make a formal statement. His case is now in the hands of prosecutors. Meanwhile, the owner of the deceased dog has filed a civil lawsuit. How this ends up is anyone’s guess, but I have a feeling the shooter’s troubles have only just begun.


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