The criminal laws and the laws pertaining to farm animals generally provide that one can shoot a dog that is threatening injury to a farm animal such as a sheep. In most states, there is no law that protects a person who shoots a dog in self-defense. However, there should be.

Attorney Kenneth M. Phillips, the author of this site, has been involved in several cases where people have shot vicious dogs but then were prosecuted criminally for crimes such as animal cruelty and discharge of a firearm within city limits. These defendants included:

  • A police officer who shot the dog that was killing his own dog on his driveway.
  • A wheelchair-bound veteran who shot the pit bull that had ripped the wheel off his wheelchair the day before (and was lunging at him when he shot it).
  • A man who shot the dog that had bitten his 3-year-old daughter's face a year before but which, right before the shooting, had gotten into his backyard and chased his kids into the house. 

Until the dog laws are changed, so that there is a presumption that one has acted in self-defense when killing a dog under these circumstances, shooting a vicious dog must be regarded as a last-ditch, life-or-death alternative. Short of that, one is advised to pursue strictly legal remedies. For that, you must consult with an attorney or follow the other suggestions given here at