How death of one man’s pet illustrates issue with Detroit police shooting dogs

Detroit police officer jumped fence while searching for gun, killed dog

DETROIT – In the past three years, Detroit police have shot at 107 dogs and killed at least 74 of them.

In 2021, Delawrence Roby’s dog Bill was in his own yard when an officer jumped the fence and shot him twice in the head, killing him.

“My dog was in his yard protecting what he was supposed to protect. He wasn’t running loose,” Roby said.

Around 60% of dogs shot by Detroit police are stray dogs or unrestrained dogs that got loose. In many cases, they present a danger to the public.

But there’s another side. In some cases, while police are executing search warrants or chasing suspects they encounter dogs -- and those dogs end up dead.

Detroit police officer shot dog in head after entering property

Delawrence Roby lived on Westmoreland Street on Detroit’s west side. In April 2021, his dog, Bill, was in the backyard when a Detroit police officer jumped the fence.

The officer was looking for a gun that he believed someone had tossed into the yard. Bill bit the police officer and the officer killed him.

“It was his yard. Anything he caught in that yard belongs to him,” Roby said. “So he bit the police officer and the police officer shot him twice in the head.”

Roby didn’t get a chance to save Bill. “Instead of knocking at our door and telling us -- ‘Would you mind putting the dog away?’ They didn’t,” Roby said.

Breaking down police reports

Bill’s death was not an isolated incident. Records from Detroit police show that over a three-year period from 2020 through 2022, Detroit police shot at dogs 100 times.

Out of those 100 reports, it appears police shot at dogs on the dogs’ own property in at least 30 of those situations. Around half of those cases involved search warrants.

Some of those incidents include:

  • Officers chasing a carjacking suspect killed a dog that happened to be in a yard they were passing through on Sept. 5, 2022.
  • Officers executing a search warrant shot and killed a dog that was tethered in a driveway while executing a search warrant at a home on Sept.17, 2022.
  • Officers fired 13 shots at a dog that was cornered in a bedroom on May 22, 2020.

Attorney Celeste Dunn specializes in animal law and has represented families whose dogs were killed by police who believed the dogs were aggressive.

“I get calls constantly where the animal is behind fencing, behind . . . or contained, and these officers are still seizing the property,” Dunn said. “And under Michigan law, a dog growling, lunging, jumping -- is considered common normal canine behavior. Don’t forget these animals are on their own property. So their instinct is going to be to protect the property -- not necessarily hurt the officer, they just need to be contained.”

The city of Detroit has paid out hundreds of thousands of dollars in claims to people whose dogs were shot by officers.

View: All of our coverage on Detroit police shootings involving dogs

Do you have more information about this or a similar story? Reach out to Karen Drew at

Detroit Police Department reports

About the Authors:

Karen Drew is the anchor of Local 4 News First at 4, weekdays at 4 p.m. and 5:30 p.m. She is also an award-winning investigative reporter.

Kayla is a Web Producer for ClickOnDetroit. Before she joined the team in 2018 she worked at WILX in Lansing as a digital producer.