Law of Nature – Natural Rights
“According to the philosophy of natural rights espoused by Locke and Montesquieu, every man has certain inalienable rights which are fundamental to his nature. One of the most important of these inchoate right is the right to defend one’s person and property.” Ron A. Bender, Right to Kill Wild Animals in Defense of Person or Property, 31 Mon Law Rev 1, Issue 2 Spring 1970. Author cites Blackstone, who stated: “Self-defense, therefore as it is justly called the primary law of nature, so it is not, neither cant it be in fact, taken away by the law of society.” 3 Blackstone, Commentaries 4.
In The Federalist Papers No. 43, James Madison wrote:
“The first question is answered at once by recurring to the absolute necessity of the case; to the great principle of self-preservation; to the transcendent law of nature and of nature’s God, which declares that the safety and happiness of society are the objects at which all political institutions aim, and to which all such institutions must be sacrificed.”
William Blackstone stated, “Self-defense . . . is justly called the primary law of nature.” William Blackstone, Blackstone’s Commentaries, ed. St. George Tucker, 5 vols. (Philadelphia: William Young Birch, and Abraham Small, 1803; reprint ed., South Hackensack, NJ: Augustus M. Kelley, 1969), 4:3.
Thomas M. Cooley, arguably the leading American constitutional law commentator of the latter part of 19th Century, wrote, “liberty” in the Due Process Clause protected “the right of self-defense against unlawful violence.” During his working life, Cooley served as dean of the University of Michigan Law School, Michigan Supreme Court Justice, and as a commissioner with the Interstate Commerce Commission.
The right to self-defense, or self-preservation, is not limited to only human aggressors. It applies to beasts too.
Constitutional Right of Self-Defense
The Second Amendment to the U.S. Constitution, which applies to the states through the 14th Amendment, and provides:
“A well regulated militia, being necessary to the security of a free state, the right of the people to keep and bear arms, shall not be infringed.”
United States Supreme Court proclaimed that the Second Amendment established an individual right for U.S. citizens to possess firearms. District of Columbia v Heller, 554 U.S. 570, 128 S.Ct. 2783, 171 L.Ed.2d 637, 76 U.S.L.W. 4631 (2008).
Michigan Constitution of 1963, Article I, Section 6, declares, “Every person has a right to keep and bear arms for the defense of himself and the state.”
This right of defense is not limited to human aggressors, it includes animals too.
A person has a right to reasonable self-defense
when confronted by an aggressive dog
“[I]t appears that courts have uniformly recognized that a person has a right to use reasonable self-defense when confronted with an aggressive dog. The lack of precedent for the contrary ruling by the trial court here provides further support for the conclusion that it was erroneous.” People v Lee, 131 CalApp4th 1413, 1429, 32 CalRptr3d 745 (2005).
A person has right to reasonable self-defense when
an aggressive dog attacks his animal
People have a right to reasonable self-defense against an aggressive dog. “(See, e.g., People v. Lee (2005) 131 Cal.App.4th 1413, 1429 [32 Cal.Rptr.3d 745] [person has right to reasonable self-defense when confronted by an aggressive dog]; People v Wicker (N.Y.Just.Ct. 1974) 78 Misc.2d 811, 814 [357 N.Y.S.2d 597] defendant entitled to self-defense when he shot and killed a vicious dog that ran onto his property and attacked his dog].)” People v Flores, 216 CalApp4th 251, 261, 156 CalRptr3d 648 (2013).
It is lawful for a person to kill a dog in the act of attacking a human.
“[O]ne is ‘privileged to destroy an animal for the purpose of defending himself or third persons against harm threatened by the animal, (a) if its actions led him to know or reasonably believe that the animal would inflict such harm and (b) the destruction was reasonable in view of the gravity of the harm threatened and ©) the person reasonably believed the harm could be prevented only by immediate destruction of the animal.” (Devincenzi v. Faulkner (1959) 174 Cal.App.2d 250, 254-5.)
In fact, under Michigan’s Dog Law of 1919, “[a]ny person including a law enforcement officer may kill any dog which he sees in the act of pursuing, worrying, or wounding any livestock or poultry or attacking persons, and there shall be no liability on such person in damages or otherwise, for such killing.” MCL 287.279 (emphasis added). The language of the Dog Law of 1919 does not limit its applicability only to civil matters. In People v Bugaiski, 224 Mich App 241, 568 NW2d 391 (1997), the Dog Law of 1919 was raised as a defense. If it is lawful to kill an attacking dog, it is arguably lawful to frighten away a dog caught in the act of attacking a person.
In conclusion, in Michigan there is a right to defend against a dog attack on a person, even to the point of destroying the animal. (This post is adapted from an appellate brief).