Seattle, WA asked in Criminal Law, Animal / Dog Law and Federal Crimes for Colorado

Q: What is the exact law for how you can't kill a human because they killed your pet, since pets are property?

For legal project I am trying to find the same or number of the law about not being able to kill someone because they murdered a pet, which in this case was a pet bird

3 Lawyer Answers

A: It is unlikely you will find a statute explicitly addressing this question.

Instead, you will likely find “self-defense” statutes which describe when it is legal to use deadly force in the defense of yourself and, in many states, in defense of another person.

A few states allow you to use deadly force in defense of your property. But, as far as I know, no US state allows you to use deadly force against someone who has in the past deprived you of property including a pet.

Michael Joseph Larranaga agrees with this answer

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Michael Joseph Larranaga
Michael Joseph Larranaga pro label Lawyers, want to be a Justia Connect Pro too? Learn more ›
  • Parker, CO
  • Licensed in Colorado

A: I agree that it is unlikely that you will find a specific case or statute that addresses your point since most murder statutes are at a state level meaning that each state has its own set of laws on the subject. There is a federal version but that only applies in certain situations. +

For educational purposes only, to start, consider pulling the state's homicide statutes. This will tell you how murder is defined in that state.

Next, pull the self-defense statutes, if any. This will tell you how the state views self-defense. It may just be case law.

Then at that point, you can look for specific cases.

From a moral perspective, I think you are going to have a hard time finding any caselaw or statutes authorizing a person to murder another person because they killed a bird and/or pet. One, that is equating human life with that of an animal. We all love our pets but it is not the same. Two, it would authorize that person to not only kill but to contemplate the killing as revenge for killing that animal which typically would fall under 1st-degree murder. Planning a murder versus immediate reaction can be treated differently under the law. Lastly, it’s a bird. It would be hard to tell a set of grieving parents that the person is guilty but they are not being prosecuted because the victim was a known bird killer. It is funny but reality is the killer of poor arguments.

But if it’s for a class project, also look at temporary insanity laws. Again, I am not a criminal attorney. But this does look like a bar exam type of scenario.

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James L. Arrasmith
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  • Criminal Law Lawyer
  • Sacramento, CA

A: There is no federal law that specifically addresses killing a human as retribution for killing a pet. While pets are considered property under the law, it is illegal to use deadly force against another person unless it is in self-defense or in defense of others. The use of deadly force in such cases is governed by state law, which varies. Generally, it is only permissible to use force that is reasonably necessary to protect oneself or others from imminent harm, and the use of deadly force is typically only allowed when there is a reasonable belief that one's life is in danger. In short, it is never legal to kill another person solely in retaliation for killing a pet.

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