If I break into a house with the intent to burglarize it, and suddenly any animal (for instance, a large German Shepherd) prevents my escape and starts to attack me, do I have the legal right to shoot it?

I'm not actually contemplating committing a crime, I was just curious. A google search revealed a couple of stories, but it isn't clear if you have the right to kill an animal to get away.

  • No (given that the animal does not attack you unless you try to exit).
    – Greendrake
    Commented Aug 23, 2018 at 8:57
  • Funny thing to google..
    – NuWin
    Commented Aug 23, 2018 at 9:03

1 Answer 1


Do I have the legal right to kill an animal preventing my exit when I burglarize another house?

No. I'll respond on the basis of Michigan law. Other jurisdictions in the U.S. very likely have similar statutes in this regard.

MCL 750.50b(2)(a) prohibits to knowingly and kill an animal without just cause. The act of committing burglary precludes the defendant from alleging that he or she had a just cause.

Likewise, MCL 324.43103 states: "A person shall not knowingly and willfully kill [...] or injure any fur-bearing animal owned by another person without the consent of the owner" (emphasis added). Once again, the context of burglary indicates that the defendant did not have the consent of the owner. And the argument that a dog is a fur-bearing animal can be established by an expert witness if the burglar's lawyer resorts to vexatious "defenses".

The statutory language "any fur-bearing animal" obviously encompasses domestic fur-bearing animals, notwithstanding that MCL 324.40102(1) defines animals as "wild birds and wild mammals". In fact, MCL 324.40110(1)(a) evidences the intent of permanent protection of domestic animals. It would indeed be absurd if the legislative intent (apropos of the subchapter's subtitle "Wildlife") sought to exclude domestic animals and protect wildlife only.

There might be additional, applicable statutes from that legislature.

  • 1
    Usually "fur bearing animal" means any animal that is farmed or hunted primarily for its pelt, not referring to animals with fur (hair). More-so supporting that is that the statute you linked is in regards to the Natural Resources protection act, which a domesticated pet would not fall under. I agree it would not be legal to kill that animal in the act of another crime, but I think the statutes you linked aren't relevant.
    – Ron Beyer
    Commented Aug 23, 2018 at 15:45
  • 1
    @RonBeyer I hear you, but this is one instance where the court would need to give effect to the statutory language of MCL 324.43103 in order to avoid the absurd outcome that domestic animals are denied protections given to wildlife (especially if there is no statute specific to protection of domestic animals). MCL 750.50b is applicable no matter what, because the statute defines "animal" as "any vertebrate other than a human being". Commented Aug 23, 2018 at 18:47
  • 324.42501 defines "fur-bearing animals" as "includes badger, beaver, bobcat, coyote, fisher, fox, lynx, marten, mink, muskrat, opossum, otter, raccoon, skunk, and weasel." Although it doesn't specifically exclude dogs and other mammals, it seems clear that the legislature intended Ron Beyer's meaning. Commented Aug 24, 2018 at 4:51
  • In People v. Bugaiski the Michigan Court of Appeals ruled that dogs are not fur-bearing animals in this sense. See page 3. "Finally, we find some guidance in the definition of the term 'fur-bearing animals' [...] Dogs obviously do not fall within this definition." (They are also not "livestock", said the court.) Commented Aug 24, 2018 at 5:05
  • @NateEldredge Interesting case. I just have some remarks: (1) MCL 750.50b prevails in the conflict of statutes the defendant attempted to raise there, whereas the answer applies this statute and the other ones in the same direction of defendant's liability. (2) The COA's for-profit livestock rationale is void since MCL 287.79 no longer exists. (3) A dog killer's pretext that the notion of hunting licensing excludes dogs from fur-bearing animals would still fail MCL 324.40110 and also lead to the aforementioned absurdity of depriving domestic animals of protections enacted for wildlife. Commented Aug 24, 2018 at 11:19

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