Doctoral Dissertations

Date of Award


Degree Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy



Major Professor

Dr. Tyler Wall

Committee Members

Drs. Lois Presser, Michelle Brown, Harry Dahms, and Derek Alderman


Police officers kill approximately 10,000 dogs every year in the United States, according to an estimate by a Department of Justice official. This amounts to police officers killing approximately 25 to 30 dogs every day. Although it is difficult to ascertain the actual extent of the problem since many law enforcement agencies do not keep track of canine shootings by their officers, the number of dogs killed by police during these encounters has government officials declaring that an “epidemic” is occurring within policing itself. The degree to which dogs die at the hands of police have led some commentators to refer to this trend as “puppycide” or “canicide.” The purpose of this dissertation is to examine how U.S. law rationalizes canicide, or the police killing of dogs. A key focus of this dissertation, then, is how the judiciary’s construction of “dangerous dogs” coalesces with justifications and rationalizations of canicide. To do this, this dissertation provides a sociolegal analysis and ethnographic content analysis of federal court cases and legal decisions on canicide, with a specific focus on the most important case to date, Brown v. Battle Creek Police Department.

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