Greencastle, IN asked in Animal / Dog Law and Wrongful Death for Indiana

Q: My neighbors shot my 1 year old dog for injuring their goats. They did not kill any goats.

They called us to come get him after they had their goats pinned up. We live 2 houses down and in the 2 min it took my husband to go down and pick him up they decided to shoot my dog. He was not actively harming their goats. He was standing there a couple feet away in the fence and they shot him and killed him. Is there anything we can do to hold them liable for cruelty? Given he wasn’t actively harming them and they had called us and within 2 min of hanging up the phone decided to just go ahead and kill him to in their words “prevent him from coming back again?”

1 Lawyer Answer
Charles Candiano
Charles Candiano
  • Chicago, IL
  • Licensed in Indiana

A: If your dog was out of your control and injured your neighbor's goats, you are responsible for the vet bill to treat the goats. If your neighbor decided to shoot your dog AFTER his animals were safe, he may be criminally liable but only the County Prosecutor has the authority to bring criminal charges.

If the dog was shot on your property, your neighbor owes you the replacement cost of your dog. No matter how close you are to an animal, under the law animals are chattel. They are treated no differently than any other personal property. For example, you may have a car that your father drove for many years and that has great sentimental value to you. Still, if that car is demolished in an accident and the fair market value is $5000, that is all the at-fault party is required to pay even if you would never sell the car for $50,000.

In a civil action, your neighbor could bring a claim against you for injury to his goats and you could file a counterclaim for the death of your dog. In criminal law, the situation is called a cross-claim. There is no law that prevents it but many jurisdictions disfavor cross-claims, the rationale being that both parties acted badly and law enforcement has more important matters to deal with. In the matter you describe, you acted badly by letting your dog out of your control, especially given that your dog was disposed to attack other animals (here the goats). The goat could just as easily have been a child. Your neighbor acted badly by shooting your dog after his animals were secured, especially if your dog was on your property when he was shot. If your neighbor shot your dog WHILE it was attacking his goats, on his property, he would have had every right to do that.

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