Family Can Sue Officer Who Shot Their Dog

     HARRISBURG, Pa. (CN) – A family that claims it saw its pet dog bleeding and staggering after it was needlessly shot by a police officer has plausible claims for emotional distress and wrongful seizure, a federal judge ruled.
     Bandit, a “harmless and gentle dog” that was euthanized after the shooting, never attacked anybody, the family claimed in February.
     But that didn’t stop Deputy Sheriff William Vernoski from opening a backyard gate and shooting the pup with a .45-caliber pistol from 10 feet away, according to the suit.
     Nikita Reid said she never got an explanation from Vernoski about why he shot the dog while executing 9-year-old warrants for her ex-husband, who hadn’t lived at her home for 7 years.     
     The complaint says Vernoski tried to cover up his wrongdoing and silence the plaintiffs roughly a month later by initiating a bogus criminal dog-law citation against the property’s owner. That citation falsely accused Linta Bryant of letting the dog escape from her premises and attack a deputy sheriff, according to the complaint.
     U.S. District Judge Lawrence Stengel rejected Vernoski’s attempt to dismiss last week.
     Stengel will let the Reid family sue for infliction of emotional distress and wrongful seizure, but the plaintiffs cannot pursue the First Amendment retaliation claim because they failed to show that Vernoski even knew about the citation.
     Stengel also dismissed Bryant as a plaintiff. She does not have a triable malicious prosecution claim since the citation merely required her to appear in court but did not mean that Vernoski “initiated criminal proceedings.”

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