Million-dollar lawsuit launched against Missouri police over fatal shooting of blind and deaf dog Teddy

Teddy, a 13lb shih-tzu, escaped from his backyard in Sturgeon, Missouri on May 19

Mike Bedigan
Los Angeles
Wednesday 29 May 2024 20:48
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Police bodycam footage showed an officer chasing Teddy (pictured) around a large field and making several unsuccessful attempts to catch him before shooting the dog dead. The city has found no wrongdoing over the officer’s actions
Police bodycam footage showed an officer chasing Teddy (pictured) around a large field and making several unsuccessful attempts to catch him before shooting the dog dead. The city has found no wrongdoing over the officer’s actions (change.org)

The owner of a tiny blind and deaf dog in Sturgeon, Missouri, is suing the city and one of its police officers for $1million after the defenseless animal was shot dead earlier this month.

The complaint, filed on Tuesday, alleges that the city failed to properly train, supervise, and discipline the officer who used unnecessary lethal force.

The suit was filed on behalf of Teddy’s owner, Nicholas Hunter, who is seeking compensation in excess of $1m for violation of his rights under the 4th Amendment.

Teddy, a 13lb shih-tzu, escaped from his backyard in Sturgeon on May 19, when officers were called to recover him. Five-year-old Teddy was born deaf and lost his sight around two years ago, Mr Hunter said.

Police bodycam footage showed an officer, identified by the lawsuit as Myron Woodson, chasing Teddy around a large field and making several unsuccessful attempts to catch him. The City of Sturgeon later claimed the officer believed Teddy had been “infected with rabies”.

The City of Sturgeon being sued for $1m after Teddy, a 13-pound disabled Shih Tzu, was shot dead by a police officer
The City of Sturgeon being sued for $1m after Teddy, a 13-pound disabled Shih Tzu, was shot dead by a police officer (Nicholas Hunter/KOMU)

The lawsuit, which is being partially funded by the Animal Legal Defense Fund (ALDF), described Mr Woodson’s “warrantless seizure” of Teddy as “unnecessary, callous, and egregious”.

“At no time during the encounter between Teddy and Defendant Woodson did Teddy show any aggression towards Defendant Woodson,” the lawsuit, obtained by The Independent, stated.

“Teddy never barked, growled, or even moved towards Defendant Woodson. Instead, the small, blind and deaf dog simply kept trying to walk away, oblivious to the danger that Defendant Woodson posed to him.”

The complaint alleges that the police officer told Mr Hunter that he had not felt threatened by Teddy at any point.

“Indeed, the small Teddy could not have harmed the much larger and stronger Defendant Woodson even if he had been so inclined,” it stated.

The officer from the Sturgeon Police Department, in Missouri, claimed he believed that Teddy was rabid. His behaviour was due to the fact that he was deaf and blind
The officer from the Sturgeon Police Department, in Missouri, claimed he believed that Teddy was rabid. His behaviour was due to the fact that he was deaf and blind (City of Sturgeon/ Facebook)

The police officer reportedly walked back this claim and said he believed that Teddy was injured, acknowledging that “he simply had no idea whether Teddy was injured or not and Teddy, in fact, was not acting in the manner as would an injured dog.”

The lawsuit, filed at the US District Court for the Western District of Missouri, also highlighted the officer’s alleged incompetency, and the fact that he appeared to be unable to use “the most common and simplest of animal control devices” – his animal capture pole.

The officer’s decision to shoot the animal sparked fury online. People on the small town’s Facebook page to describe the local police as a “joke”, as well as “disgusting and disappointing” after attempting to justify the officer’s actions. Many called for the officer’s resignation.

The backlash intensified when officials determined the officer had committed no wrongdoing.

“UNACCEPTABLE!!!!! Sturgeon Police force is seriously a joke,” one user wrote on Facebook. Another went further, writing: “This is a disgrace. The officer involved needs to be immediately removed from duty and charged with felony animal abuse.

“I pray the owner sues the city, the mayor, the officer and the department. I will be filing a complaint with the state attorney general’s office. The entire city council should resign after hiring this man.”

Mr Hunter’s lawsuit alleges that the police officer’s actions violated rights under the 4th Amendment, which protects people from unreasonable searches and seizures by the government.

“Unfortunately, these types of shootings occur all too frequently. Contrary to the common misconception that ‘it’s just a dog,’ every federal circuit to have addressed the issue has held that the unreasonable killing of a companion animal by law enforcement violates the owner’s most fundamental rights as secured by the Fourth Amendment,” said attorney Daniel J Kolde.

According to the ALDF, the Department of Justice estimates that each year as many as 10,000 dogs are shot and killed by police.

“This is such an unnecessary, and preventable problem,” said ALDF executive director Chris Green.

“It all comes down to providing police officers with adequate training and then holding all involved accountable. The goal is to prevent these tragedies from ever happening in the first place.”

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