CA11: Shooting ptf’s dog gets no QI here

Alleged unnecessary shooting of plaintiff’s dog stated claim with no qualified immunity. Plowright v. Miami Dade Cty., 2024 U.S. App. LEXIS 13613 (11th Cir. June 5, 2024):

Sylvan Plowright sued Miami-Dade County, its police chief, and two of its police officers after one of those officers, Sergio Cordova, fatally shot Plowright’s dog, Niles, at the scene of an investigation. The district court dismissed Plowright’s complaint, concluding among other things that Cordova was entitled to qualified immunity because he did not violate any clearly established right when he shot Niles.

We disagree. Addressing a matter of first impression in this Circuit, we hold that the use of deadly force against a domestic animal constitutes a seizure of its owner’s property subject to the Fourth Amendment’s reasonableness requirement. Because, under the facts alleged in the complaint, no reasonable officer in Cordova’s position could have believed that Niles posed an imminent danger, his decision to shoot Niles falls short of that requirement. And despite the “novel factual circumstances” described in Plowright’s complaint, Hope v. Pelzer, 536 U.S. 730, 741, 122 S. Ct. 2508, 153 L. Ed. 2d 666 (2002), this is one of the rare cases in which the unconstitutional nature of Cordova’s actions was clearly established to the point of obvious clarity, even in the absence of directly-on-point caselaw.

We therefore reverse the dismissal of Plowright’s § 1983 claim against Cordova and remand for further proceedings consistent with this opinion. We also reverse the dismissal of Plow-right’s claim for intentional infliction of emotional distress against Cordova. But we affirm the dismissal of Plowright’s intentional-infliction-of-emotional-distress claim against a second officer, as well as his claims against the county and its police chief.

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