ORLANDO, Fla. (CN) - A Florida police officer may be liable for shooting and killing a dog while it was being restrained by the owner, a federal judge ruled.
Mitchell and Jackie Schutt, along with their two kids, say Ocoee police officer Jerry Lewis shot and killed Laila, the family dog, last year after Lewis knocked on the door. The dog allegedly came out when the door opened.
"Plaintiff Jackie Schutt grabbed Laila but this did not stop Lewis from drawing his firearm and shooting Laila," U.S. District Judge Roy Dalton Jr. wrote, summarizing what he called "sparse factual allegations of the complaint.
"Besides killing Laila while she was being restrained by Jackie Schutt, Lewis narrowly missed shooting the minor children who were in the home," the summary continued.
Dalton refused to dismiss the family's claim that Laila's murder constituted an unlawful seizure under the Fourth Amendment. He points out in his footnotes that a number of appeals courts "have held that the unreasonable killing of a dog constitutes an unconstitutional seizure of personal property under the Fourth Amendment."
The Schutts also claim that the Orange County seized Laila's body without authorization, cremated it and then refused to hand over the ashes.
Dalton dismissed a municipal liability claim against Ocoee, and he found that the city has immunity from failure to train and negligent supervision claims.
There is also evidence, however, that Ocoee knew of "past shootings, or that Lewis had shot dogs previously while on duty," according to the ruling.
Dalton also found that the Schutts cannot pursue negligence claims against Ocoee or Lewis since the shooting allegedly represents an intentional tort.
Ocoee and Orange County lastly have immunity from emotional distress claims, the Orlando court found.