Tuesday, August 14, 2012

Misunderstanding Your Ground

I received a wake-up call last Thursday morning about 3am.  The ring-tone in question was in the form of frenzied dog barking.  I was confused for a bit… it was coming from my backyard!  It did NOT sound like the miniature daschund next door (it’s an indoor dog and doesn’t bark much).  No, this was some big, angry dog.

So, I grab my Sig Sauer (AC officers of last resort) and proceed to the sliding doors off the kitchen.  Flip on the floodlight, and there is that big, brown brindle PIT BULL (“Woggie”) I have seen at large quite often… he definitely has an affinity for my back yard.  How about helping out with the rent, pal?  He’s standing about 25 feet from the house barking his proverbial ass off at me. After a few seconds in the spotlight, he tears off into the woods.  Poor Woggie was probably heartbroken I didn’t toss my cat out the door to him.  How can he go on?

Cue the pit nuts that are going to claim that Woggie was doing me a favor by guarding my house for me.  Sure, I am genuinely thankful Woggie got my ass out of bed at 3am to notify me that there was a squirrel in “our” backyard.  How could I have gone on without that?

The anti-pitbull folks are probably wondering why my two AC agents didn’t dispatch Woggie to that great Pit Bull resting place in the sky, where toy poodles and 2 year old girls abound?  Of course, Mr. Sig and Mr. Sauer act strictly at my discretion.  They were kept in check.

Indeed, it has been burned into my conscious brain that Woggie and his slacker owner have full legal protections and I do not.  Did I bother calling county AC the next day?  Nope.  They never did anything tangible about any of the neighborhood pet problems before, so why should they start now?  How about the Police?  What is the point in calling police if they aren’t going to do anything, either?  Sure, it LOOKED like a dog I’d seen at large a bunch of times, but who knows.  How do you tell one brown brindle pit bull from another?

Anyone considering using force in a situation similar to mine should consider the following circumstance: http://www.nola.com/crime/index.ssf/2012/07/st_bernard_parish_man_kills_do.html

Russell Banks, Jr., fed up with a Pit Bull that had repeatedly trespassed and behaved threateningly in his girlfriend’s property, fetched a 12 gauge shotgun and shot the dog dead. This was during another “canine trespass” incident where the dog was allegedly “growling” at Mr. Banks.   Mr. Banks was arrested for animal cruelty and inappropriate discharge of a firearm and is being held on $26,000.00 bond.

One salient detail that stands out, relevant to any self-defense scenario:  Mr. Banks was in his GF’s backyard when he noted the Pit Bull trespassing and growling at him.  After observing the dog trespassing and behaving threateningly, he then proceeded back inside to fetch the shotgun, returned outside and shot the Pit Bull.

The articles are light on details.  A few things I would like to know:
-          Was the dog behaving dangerously when Mr. Banks returned outside with the weapon?
-          Were any complaints regarding the dog filed with AC or Police prior to this incident?
-          Were these complaints acted upon in a fast, efficient manner?
-          Does the neighborhood in question have recurring issues with dogs at large, off leash dogs, and other pet related offenses?
-          Had Mr. Banks or his lady friend contacted the dog owner prior to the incident?
-          Had anyone else complained directly to the dog owner about his pet?
-          Has the owner of the dog in question been cited for dog at large?
-          Does Mr. Banks have legal representation?  If so, have they made any statements?
-          Have any neighbors made statements regarding Mr. Banks, the dog owner or the dog itself?
-          Where is Al Sharpton when you need him?

Debate rages on whether this fits a “stand your ground” self defense scenario.  Mr. Banks was without his gun when the dog threatened him the first time (first time THAT day, it had allegedly trespassed and behaved threateningly in the past).  He went back into his house, then returned back outside with the shotgun and shot the dog.

One could argue that, Mr. Banks was safe in his home after the first confrontation (that day).  Did he need to return back outside and shoot the canine trespasser?  Why didn’t he just stay indoors and call police or AC?  Hmmmm…. Why indeed?  This is where we need more information.  I would say if local AC had completely failed (as it does in most places) and repeated complaints about the dog had been ignored, Mr. Banks was justified.  IN MY OPINION.

People say “Use the system!”.  Sure, and what do we do when the “system” completely fails?  What do we do when the “system” is systemically corrupt and completely owned by those who are bent on taking all of our rights?  Do we cower and live in fear forever?  Do we just wait until the miscreant comes for us for the last time?

Consider that, unless one lives in a bunker or the International Space Station, no one is “safe in their home” from a Pit Bull.  The “home invasion” attack is a Pit Bull exclusive.  Mr. Banks had no confidence that the Pit Bull would not return to invade the home and attack either he or his lady friend.  Furthermore, Mr. Banks may indeed be lucky he saw the Pit Bull before it saw him.  The next “confrontation” may result in Mr. Banks in the hospital with an arm missing, and the dog destroyed.  Would that have been a good outcome?   Additionally, Mr. Banks may have saved a neighborhood child from being mauled.

It is also my opinion that “Castle Doctrine” and “Stand your ground” type laws do not necessarily apply when someone uses force against an animal.  The two laws indicated are relevant when a human being uses force against another human being in a potential self-defense scenario.  That’s not to say you can’t use force when an animal threatens your safety:  I’m contemplating that the same standard does not apply.  In my opinion the threshold for using force against an animal is lower than that for a human being.  I am not saying we should just all go out and shoot dogs for the fun of it, but that full burden of proof is not required when using force against a dog or any other animal. 

Lastly, the dog owner bears a burden of responsibility.  If he had not been using his dog to terrorize the neighborhood, as many Pit Bull owners do, his dog would not have been shot dead.  Q.E.D.


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  2. first let me get this out of the way, it is also my opinion based on the information provided that mr banks was JUSTIFIED.

    second, here is the louisiana law regarding the use of deadly force and it appears your yard is not included in the castle doctrine.

    i saw this story when it broke and my first question, is he a felon? i suspect that he is and it changes everything. the shotgun could legally be owned by his lady friend and she most likely could have shot the dog and got away with it.

    also, a law abiding citizen before a jury is not likely to be convicted of killing a pit bull with a known history of roaming and menacing people. the shrill nutters on the internet do not represent the real world jury pool, although it seems like it sometimes. it is unfortunate that a law abiding citizen is subject to this bullshit in the first place.

    i blogged about this issue last month. i have links to the laws regarding the use of lethal force in all 50 states

    great blog post. this issue can not be addressed too much.

  3. btw, nice jab at rev al sharpton. i can't stand that fucker.

  4. Does Banks have a felony background? That would be interesting to know as well.

  5. I would like to be in Mr.Banks corner but once he went back inside the threat to him was over, and you can best bet that is what the Judge and DA are going to say.

    My thought, keep some chocolate covered raisins around and throw a handful at him. If he eats them than you have just been a nice neighbor trying to make him friendly.

    There are more ways than weapons to resolve these situations.

  6. Hello John,

    Agreed, that is what the DA is going to say. Unfortunately, the "policy" is to allow the dogs to go crazy until someone is killed.

  7. The US system of so-called Animal Control has failed its peaceful citizens.

    It's much the same in Australia.

  8. There are lots of cases of people shooting pits with little or no consequence. It seems like people who escape the danger only to re-emerge with their guns later are much more likely to get in trouble, though there was a case in colorado springs where repeated calls for help (to animal control, iirc) were ignored and so the concerned citizen shot the dog when it became apparent that help was not going to come and the dog was probably going to hurt someone.

    As far as we know mr banks might get out of the charges too, its too early to judge. People are charged with all kinds of bullshit that just gets thrown out in court. This might be one of those cases.

  9. Johnbald1 August 14, 2012 4:11 PM: "I would like to be in Mr.Banks corner but once he went back inside the threat to him was over, and you can best bet that is what the Judge and DA are going to say."

    J-baldi-1, you are giving in mentally to the pit-lobby assertion that a pit bull is a human being. But okay, let's assess the threat it represents first in human terms...

    The threat of a repeatedly roaming pit-bull type dog isn't over because you manage to get back indoors yourself un-mauled, un-dismembered and un-killed THIS TIME. Having a pit-type chronically roaming the neighborhood is like being stalked by someone who keeps pointing a Kalishnikov at you, or by Hannibal Lecter. It's worse for children than having a registered child sex offender hanging out near the school playground day after day (unless that sex offender also likes to dismember and kill children).

    This just in case the judge et al are so IMBECILIC as to consider the shooting of a threatening dog as if the dog were a human with human rights. We wouldn't allow a human to stalk and threaten like this. But a pit bull is not only not a real dog, it's also not human. So...

    I hope that even if Banks is a felon, his attorney is smart enough to point out that pit bulls don't have human rights. I hope s/he also presents other defences, such as being stalked by the constantly threatening un-dog, let down by authorities, and reacting to a constant threat that put Banks under such mental duress that it was justified to react -- even if it had been a human doing this, which it wasn't.

    My only reservation would be if Banks also keeps one or more pit bulls. In that case, he's not justified in shooting someone else's just because it wants to kill him.

    1. exactly, had ANDREW ROZSA'S victim been able to prove that the sheep killing pits had a history of aggressiveness, he would have been legally justified (in alabama) to go into his house, arm himself, return and kill the dog. what you can do in louisiana is anybody's guess.

      regarding dog vs human, i haven't researched what constitutes a justifiable killing of dogs in every state. i think a good rule of thumb would be to know your rights regarding the use of force in your state, which sometimes is written explicit to humans, sometimes it is vague but following the law in regards to humans certainly will not get you in any legal trouble if you apply it to dogs. the nutter lawyers have not succeeded in elevating the status of dogs above people - yet.

      law schools are pumping out animal rights zealots left and right. they are doing a lot of damage to our legal system. clogging it up with all kinds of nonsense. but even if this case against banks goes forward, makes it past the prosecutor and past the judge, it still has to get past a jury. and i think you're unlikely to encounter 12 people who find this man guilty. the majority of voters in miami dade said no pit bulls. animal people has found that the majority of people polled do not want to live next door to a pit bull. this is the jury of peers.

    2. @dawn james, funny you should mention law schools pumping out animal rights zealots. Here's an example from the University of Arizona in Tucson:


      And @Jewel Jade, if you're reading this, the University of Arizona is another institution that needs to be called out. The very idea of using the UA news bureau to promote a pit nutter group.

      They're as bad as the Pima Animal Care Center and their rescue groups page:


      Look at the group on top of the list. It's Adopt-A-Bull! Guess what type of dog that group is putting back into our community! I feel SO safe!

    3. Good points, all! Thanks for commenting.

      In regards to "Stand your ground" laws and the like: These set legal boundaries when using force against *another human being*. As Dawn noted, the threshold for using force against a *dog* is usually different, and will differ by jurisdiction.

      I may send a letter to NRA and see what they think, or if they have any advice. I'd think they would take an interest in a case like this.

      Even if Banks was truly in the wrong, do the taxpayers of LA need to invest in the prosecution and incarceration of this guy? I always find it infuriating that when a dog does something TO somebody, the authorities claim lack of funds, manpower, etc.... but when someone does something TO that same dog, they have plenty of funds and manpower! HUGE double standard.

      I believe that obvious cases of animal abuse and cruelty should be prosecuted. For example, if someone shoots your dog while he is napping on your front porch, a crime has been committed.

      I believe that if a dog is attacking someone, or behaving dangerously, shooting that dog dead is a legitimate way to restore peace to the situation.

      I believe that in "borderline" cases where a dog was growling, posturing, or otherwise threatening someone off property, any action should be considered a civil matter. IOW's, if the owner feels his rights were violated, he can go ahead and sue. Most victims of malicious dog owners currently have no (legal) recourse outside of civil courts, anyway.

      Again, I'd prefer to fill up our jails with owners of dangerous dogs as opposed to "borderline" individuals like Banks.

  10. I don't think this was meant as humor but I kept cracking up at the way you worded certain things.. I think Mr. Banks was justified. My mom is petrified, phobic nearly of large dogs, especially Pitbulls. She has been prisoner in her own home due to loose monster dogs like bull mastiffs and pitbull terrorists. Why should she be imprisoned in her own home because of someone's loose mutant dog? I think if its on my property its trespassing and trespassers, especially dogs, will be shot. ;)

    1. Hello Rhea,

      I am sorry for your Mom's troubles. Tell her to stay safe and avoid "Getting Banked" (wink wink). The winds of change are on our side.