When shooting a dog is justified

I like dogs, and I like cops.

Assuming they are good dogs, and good cops.

FBI special agent Jacqueline Maguire

And I have read and researched cases where cops have freaked out when approached by a strange dog, drawn their weapons and fired. This often happens when cops are in a home trying to arrest someone and the dog goes into protection mode. It happens particularly with cops who don’t know, or fear, dogs.

In the case in the news now,  FBI special agent Jacqueline Maguire shot and killed a dog on the street in Center City. That’s the overview, but that misses a lot of important detail.

Maguire was sitting on a bench in front of her building with her small dog in her lap, when Maria Esser came by, walking two leashed dogs.

Without warning, one of them, a 7-year–old pit bull named Mia, suddenly bolted and bit into Maguire’s dog and began aggressively shaking it.

When dogs grab prey and start shaking it, that’s a kill move.

Maguire attempted to separate the dogs, then drew her weapon, pressed it against Mia’s hindquarters and pulled the trigger. To protect the victim, her pet.

Some animal lovers are protesting and asking Maguire be fired. I am not because I have been in her situation. 

About 25 years ago, I was walking my dog, on a leash, along the South Philadelphia H.S. athletic field at 10th and Bigler.

Another guy approached, with a Rottweiler off-leash, who jumped my dog as we were passing.

The Rottweiler got a small piece of my dog, then turned and pounced on her. My dog had never been in a fight in her life.

“Get your f—-ing dog under control!” I shouted as I slipped my hand into a pocket and came up with my .25. 

I couldn’t release the leash to allow my dog to escape because she might have bolted into traffic on busy 10th street. 

In the next second, I was thinking where to shoot the Rottweiler, who was big and brawny. My gun was small caliber.

Fortunately, the dog’s owner grabbed him by the collar and pulled him away. I pocketed the gun. The other guy never saw it, never knew his dog was 3 seconds away from being shot.

“He’s never done that before,” the guy said, perhaps by way of apology.

“Your dog should be leashed,” I growled, thinking I should have shot this idiot instead of the dog.

In Center City, Esser did have her pet on a leash, and maybe Mia had never done it before, but when your dog is attacked and is in danger of being killed, you have the unqualified right to use lethal force. No one knows what got into Mia’s mind, to drive her to an unprovoked attack. But she did.

It’s fine when it’s all over to say what Maguire should have done in the seconds after the attack began, when she saw her pet in danger. Adrenalin kicks in, you are in fight mode, you act. Hindsight is always 20-20.

By placing the gun against the pit bull, she was firing in the safest way, and at the dog’s hindquarters, not her head.

Mia might have survived, and it’s a shame she didn’t. I can understand Esser’s grief, but the fact is her dog attacked another and that is on her, no one else.

Based on the facts we know, Maguire acted to save her own pet and should be exonerated. 

14 thoughts on “When shooting a dog is justified”

  1. Thank You for this added info. I, as a dog owner, felt the emotion in this situation as reported in the news that she was in the wrong. I can now see that emotion was misplaced. I would probably have done the very same thing had I been in her place.

  2. You won’t get any argument from me. When this was “reported”, I thought that there was more to the story. Thanks for clarifying.

  3. Always to sides to every story – rightly or wrongly. And the general media seems to have reported only one. Thank you for presenting the other side.

  4. Right on point here, Stu. Was a was a boy, there was a cute little poodle who lived across the street who used to bark like crazy at another dog, a German Shepperd, who lived nearby. One day the poodle got out of his yard when his owner went to get his paper, and the Shepperd happened to be on the loose. It was over it two seconds, as the larger dog grabbed the poor poodle by the neck and finished him off with one snap. I will never, ever forget the sight of that poor old man crying over his dead dog’s body laying in the street. I would have done the same as this woman. Peace.

  5. A terrible, split-second decision. And in this case the right one. And I cannot resist the following….

    A man sees a gorilla up a tree in his yard. The animal rescue guy shows up with a 10-foot pole, a pair of handcuffs, a Doberman on a chain, and a shotgun. He tells the homeowner, “I’ll chain the Doberman to the tree, then climb the tree and poke the gorilla with the 10-foot pole. He’ll fall out of the tree and the Doberman is trained to bite him on the testicles. The gorilla will be paralyzed with pain, so you put the handcuffs on him and I take him away.” The homeowner says, “Well what’s the shotgun for?” The guy says, “If the gorilla knocks ME out of the tree, shoot the dog!”

  6. Ad a police officer I was forced to make this choice once in front of the Melrose diner. A person saw me on a car stop and told me a loose pit bull was attacking a lady and her baby in a stroller. I ran the half block and saw a woman bleeding and trying to get the dog away from her baby. The dog saw me and immediately charged and I shot it once as it was coming toward me.
    No time to really aim and it was hit in the head.
    It didn’t die but couldn’t lift its head and all the bystanders were screaming to shot it again to put it out of its misery. Needless to say I didn’t shoot it again since the threat was gone and the dog was saved by Penn Vet hospital.
    Of course the papers told half the story and of course I was sued by the owner but fortunately the woman was in court to testify so it ended well.

  7. The outrage over the dog shooting is not surprising. No one wants to acknowledge that there are dangerous breeds, the extent of human casualties from dog attacks, or the health hazards of dog feces. Here’s an essay I wrote on the personification of animals. I’ve also included an article on the dangers of dog poop from the Gothamist.

    I’ve been attacked by dogs while hiking at a State Park and walking at a municipal park. I’ve also been assaulted by people at a convenience store. I am lucky I didn’t have a gun. It would have complicated the situation had I used it. It’s easier in the long run to be a victim.



  8. I knew you were going to write this story & was wondering how you would present it knowing you are an animal lover. I should have known better. As usual you presented the facts.

    For the last three nights I have watched the local 11pm news. Last night there was no story. But the previous two nights the story was the same- outrage and protest. Since I never believe one thing I hear or read from the media I web-searched the story. Not surprisingly, the stories I found on CBS3, ABC6 & NBC10 represented the outrage & protest angle only while omitting the most important details. Fortunately, KYW’s story was identical to yours.

    Thank you for another excellent article. Sorry you had to write this one.

  9. My dog was attacked twice, he defended himself as a result of other peoples negligence and complacency-the other dog was harmed both times. I contracted sepsis from the bite I received from the other dog. Naturally, I got in the middle of both fights to protect my dog (which some say is stupid, when I was simply a mother defending my child). Some people intentionally set the stage for chaos. Some people also know who, what and why the chaos exists. It’s unfortunate, as I bet you will never know how that fight between Mia and the other dog really came about, but, if I were to guess after doing one’s homework on the real breed and history of the other dog that provoked the chaos, it will all be crystal clear.

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