Is It Legal to Shoot a Dog Attacking Your Dog? | All You Need to Know!

Written by Thomas Matthews

While it is true that dogs are man’s best friend, some dogs may also turn into a predator to another dog. There are lots of possible reasons why some dogs become aggressive. As a dog owner, you want to protect your dog from another dog. On the other hand, you should also understand that there are laws that protect dogs before you take any action.

Is it legal to shoot a dog attacking your dog? Generally speaking, it is legal to shoot a dog that is attacking your dog. However, certain conditions should be present to make sure that your action is valid and legal. Moreover, different states may also have different laws or ordinances regarding the shooting or killing of attacking dogs.


But before anything else, the contents of this article are based on thorough research about laws concerning dogs. However, they should not be considered legal advice. If a related incident has happened to you and you need professional assistance on dog laws, consult a dog lawyer near you. Nevertheless, this article can help you as a guide.

What Should You Do if a Dog Attacks Your Dog?

What Should You Do if a Dog Attacks Your Dog

Normally, a dog doesn’t attack another dog just like that. But in case a dog will attack your dog, there are four possible results:

1. Your dog may be beaten badly.

2. Your dog may fight back and may beat the other dog.

3. Either of the two dogs or both of them will die.

4. You or the other dog owner will get arrested and charged.

As a responsible dog owner, you should have a presence of mind and act accordingly. Also, taking actions may differ depending on the situation, as some of them may not be applicable. The key is to protect your dog from harm by stopping the attacking dog. Nevertheless, here are some things you should do and not do if a dog attacks your dog:

1. Don’t Panic

As much as possible, don’t panic. Avoid screaming, jumping, running, or even making eye contact with the attacking dog. Otherwise, it may also attack you. Instead, try to stay calm so you can focus on thinking about your next move.

2. Don’t Separate Them by Yourself

Don’t pull your dog away, as it may harm it more if the attacking dog is currently biting your pet. But more importantly, don’t go near the two dogs to separate them. Otherwise, you might get injured too.

3. Don’t Attack the Dog Closely

Don’t kick, punch, or use any kind of force close to the other dog to stop the attack. Otherwise, this can escalate the madness, and the other dog might attack you too. Instead, analyze the situation carefully.

4. Scare or Distract the Attacking Dog From Afar

Instead of separating them, try distracting or scaring the attacking dog. Find a long stick or stone and act as if you will hurt the other dog. Most dogs know that there is a possible danger and will decide to go away.

5. Unleash Your Dog

If your dog has a leash, release it. This may be risky, but it will free your dog. In doing so, your dog may be able to run away or will have a better chance to fight back and scare the other dog away.

6. Instruct Your Dog to Run Away

Once you release your dog from its leash, call his name and instruct him to run away. In doing so, you can also block the attacking dog. However, don’t show the other dog that you’re scared. Otherwise, it will not scare him away.

7. Ask For Help

If the owner of the attacking dog is present or there are other people around or nearby, go and ask for help. Once the other dog sees people trying to approach him, he is very likely to back off and run away.

8. Use Physical Force

In some cases, especially when your dog is nearly beaten to death, you may need to use physical force. This includes throwing a rock at the other dog or hitting him with a long, big stick or anything that will stop him from biting your dog.

9. Get Your Dog and Run to Safety

As soon as the attacking dog retreats, pick up your dog at once and run to a safe place. Make sure that the other dog will not come back or follow you. Then, check the wounds of your dog and treat them if possible.

10. Rush Your Dog to the Nearest Vet

Regardless of the kind of wound your dog had, you should bring your pet to the nearest veterinarian immediately. This is because your dog may be suffering from internal bleeding or broken limbs, and you will not see the damage from the outside.

11. Report the Incident to the Other Dog Owner

If the dog owner is not present during the attack, you should find him at once to report the incident. Seek assistance from a dog bite lawyer so you can file a case properly. If you hurt the other dog, you will also need an attorney if the owner files a complaint.

12. Report the Incident to the Authorities

You are required by law to report the incident to the local authorities as soon as possible. You can call the police, animal control, or local health department. Aside from legal purposes, the severity of the dog bite should also be assessed properly.

Can I Shoot a Dog Attacking Another Pet?

Can I Shoot a Dog Attacking Another Pet

Yes, you can shoot a dog if it is attacking another pet. However, that pet should fall under the category of “domestic animal.” This includes domestic dogs, cats, chickens, guinea pigs, goats, cattle, and the like. But again, laws may differ from state to state, and in some cases, you may also be held liable even if you did not kill the dog.

Can I Shoot a Dog if It Attacks My Livestock?

Can I Shoot a Dog if It Attacks My Livestock

Yes, you can shoot a dog if it is attacking your livestock. In some states, the term “attacking” is referred to chasing, threatening, harassing, injuring, and killing. Nevertheless, you should prove to the court that the attack was ongoing when you shot the dog. If you shot the attacking dog but did not kill him, you may not be held liable.

Can You Shoot a Dog That Attacks You?

Can You Shoot a Dog That Attacks You

The case of a dog attacking you is the same as attacking your dog, another pet, or your livestock. Therefore, you are also allowed by law to shoot that dog. But again, you should prove to the court that your act is only for self-defense. Likewise, you should also prove that the dog is in the process of attacking you when you fired the shot.

When Is It Legal to Kill a Dog?

As mentioned above, it is legal to kill a dog if it is trying or in the process of attacking you, your dog, or any pet or livestock. Therefore, you should justify your act as self-defense. However, you no longer have the legal right to kill that dog after the attack. Likewise, you cannot follow that dog as it goes home then kill it if you have a chance.

In some cases, killing an attacking dog can be considered illegal if it has been proven that you can stop the biting without killing it. In short, you should only kill the dog as the last option to stop the attack. If the dog is no longer a danger, report it to animal control.

Otherwise, the dog owner can sue you, and you may be arrested for animal cruelty.

On the other hand, some states, such as Ohio, allows a property owner to harm or kill a trespassing dog. This act is considered legal even if the dog did not harm anyone or any animal. It will also be allowed even if the dog has not destroyed any part of the property. However, he should pay the dog owner for the value of the dog minus the worth of damage that the dog has caused.

Meanwhile, it is also legal to kill a dog if it is terminally sick. This act is called euthanasia or “mercy killing.” Here, the purpose is to end the suffering of the sick dog. However, there are two criteria – the dog is seriously sick and near death and is no longer fit to live longer. On the other hand, the killing should be humane and painless.

Why Do Dogs Attack?

Why Do Dogs Attack

Again, dogs rarely attack another dog simply because they are very sociable. Therefore, a dog bite victim should not easily conclude that the attacking dog was unprovoked. This is why most dog bite cases are very challenging. You should be cautious when dealing with dogs. Likewise, dog owners should always be responsible for their pets.

Note that dogs cannot talk, and they will only act depending on how they understand a certain situation. As humans, we should make sure that dogs don’t misinterpret our actions. Although some dog breeds such as pit bulls are dangerous, here are some reasons why some dogs attack humans, other dogs, or other animals for that matter:

  • Dogs are territorial animals and may bite to defend themselves.
  • A mother dog may attack anyone (even their owners) who will try to get their puppies.
  • Dogs may bite you if you suddenly wake them up.
  • Abused or abandoned dogs have a higher percentage to bite.
  • Frightened dogs may bite if you surprise them.
  • Sick or injured dogs may bite if you try to touch them.
  • Dogs attack people running away because they are afraid.

Can You Be Arrested for Shooting an Attacking Dog?

Can You Be Arrested for Shooting an Attacking Dog

Yes, there are some instances when you can get arrested for shooting an attacking dog. As mentioned above, you only have the legal right to shoot or kill a dog while it is trying or in the process of attack. Once you go to court, you should present a so-called satisfactory proof to justify your actions as self-defense. Otherwise, you will be arrested. 

You may also be arrested if you shoot the dog after the attack. You will also be charged if you shoot the attack dog once it has left the scene or days after the attack. In some cases, police may also arrest you if you shoot the biting dog while it is inside a cage or enclosure. Therefore, you should clearly understand the dog laws in your area.


Dogs don’t attack without reason at all. These friendly animals will only bite after being provoked. They also don’t go savage out of the blue. So, if you have a gun, think twice before shooting an attacking dog. But more importantly, try to understand dogs’ body language so you can avoid getting attacked by them, especially in the streets.

Related: 7 Best Dog Repellents To Protect Your Family and Yard

List of Sources

Wisch, R. F., Conley, D. (2021). Table of Dog Bite Strict Liability Statutes. Michigan State University College of Law.

Daniels, C. (2014). What Can You Do When a Dog is Threatening Your Livestock? Ohio State University Extension.

Why Does a Dog Bite and How Do You Avoid It? UPMC Children’s Hospital of Pittsburgh.

Marshall, A. (2021). Can I Kill a Terminally Sick Pet Myself, or Do I Need a Veterinarian? LawInfo – Thomson Reuters.

Thomas Matthews
Follow me