Florida Cop Who Killed Family Dog Clears Suit

     (CN) – A Florida police officer is not liable for killing a dog while it was being restrained by its owner, a federal judge ruled.
     Ocoee, Fla. police officer Jerry Lewis drove to the home of Mitchell and Jackie Schutt in September 2012 to return a family member’s lost ID card, according to the ruling.
     When Jackie opened the door after hearing Lewis knock, the family’s two American boxers – Ali and Laila – ran out the front door. Ali responded to Schutt’s call but Laila ran toward Lewis. Schutt grabbed Laila’s hind legs but it was too late. Lewis shot the dog three times, killing her. “The entire incident lasted approximately four seconds,” the ruling states.
     Schutt alleged that the shots narrowly missed her minor children.
     After preserving the family’s Fourth Amendment claim last year, U.S. District Judge Roy Dalton Jr. granted the defendants summary judgment on Monday.
     Lewis’ use of force was reasonable considering officer safety, and was not a Fourth Amendment violation, Dalton found.
     “It is undisputed that when Laila ran past Jackie Schutt and into the yard, Lewis faced a rapidly approaching dog that was large, uncollared, and noncompliant with its owner’s commands,” the 14-page opinion states. “With only seconds to respond, Lewis chose to shoot Laila, and the court cannot say that decision was unreasonable under the circumstances.”
     The law also supports Orange County’s removal and burning of the dog’s body before testing it for rabies, the court found.
     “The county argues that sovereign immunity bars those claims because the challenged acts involved discretionary government decisions related to the control of communicable diseases,” Dalton wrote. “The court agrees.”
     Ocoee faced claims for trespass, conversion and negligence, but Dalton awarded it summary judgment on the same basis for which he sided with Lewis.
     “The city is entitled to summary judgment on those claims for the same reason that Lewis is – his conduct did not rise to the level of trespass to chattel or conversion,” the ruling states.
     “The remaining negligence claim is the only claim against the city that does not involve Lewis,” Dalton added. “Specifically, plaintiffs claim that the city acted negligently by failing to stop the county from seizing and testing Laila’s remains. This claim is factually unsupported, and, in any event, negligent enforcement of a police power is not a cognizable cause of action under Florida law.”

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