Drones have become so popular, so quickly, that our last article referred to the possibility of government regulations issued by the Federal Aviation Administration as a “theoretical question.” Now, you can find them at 80 Fed. Reg. 78593.
We hadn’t even thought of other theoretical questions that have since become practical questions, serious enough to be officially answered. Like, “What if I attach a camera to this paper airplane? Will I still have to register it with the FAA?” (The answer is no, though this is subjected to 31 limitations, even if you once held a license to fly a helicopter).
Needless to say, the law dealing with drone encounters with your dog has changed. But, then again, so have drones. They’ve gotten bigger, faster, and stronger, with more weaponry and a higher tolerance for pain. Dogs, on the other hand, haven’t changed much at all. When we first covered this issue, we worried about what might happen if our dog attacks a drone. The tide has turned and now it is vital for us to know: “what if a drone attacks my dog?”
Q: If a drone has a malfunction, falls out of the sky, and kills my dog, can I sue?
You can always sue. This is America.
Will you win? That’s another question.
While some people are shooting drones out of the sky the second they hover over their property, others are taking a more reasonable response and sorting it out between themselves. Unfortunately, this means that no one is taking the issue to court, so judges haven’t determined when a drone is “trespassing” on your land. If we ever get to that point, then a trespassing drone that killed your dog should raise a cause of action. There might also be a product liability claim in there, too, but then you’re looking at class actions, expert testimony, and one seriously expensive jaunt through the court system.
Q: If an Amazon delivery drone dropped off a package on my porch, and my dachshund, Oscar Meyer, went after it and got killed by the propellers, could I sue Amazon?
That’s a very specific hypothetical.
When Amazon does start using drones to deliver packages, I’m sure this situation will hit the courts, quickly. Unfortunately, it’s unlikely to come out in your favor. The fact that it’s easier for you to stop your dog from attacking a drone than it is for Amazon to program drones to avoid canines means that you can bet it will be up to you to prevent this sort of thing from happening. Also, you requested the drone to make the delivery, so it would be kind of unfair to then make Amazon pay you for making that delivery.
If I were you, I would use your own drone to instill a sense of abject fear in little Oscar now. That way, when the time comes for Amazon to make a delivery, he’ll cower under the couch instead.
Q: I took your advice, but Oscar proved fearless. You want to try these sausages? They’re actually pretty good.
Q: My neighbor has a drone with a spear attached to the front, like a lance. He started by catching little metal rings, like jousting practice, but he got bored and now he’s trying to shish kebab my shih tzu whenever she tries to go out. Can he do this? Prompt response appreciated – she hasn’t peed in nearly two days now, and all my floors are carpeted.
Your neighbor is a dick. Hilarious. But also a dick.
And, importantly, in the wrong. You’re about to make a young associate’s day when you come into the office and tell them that a drone impaled and killed your dog. Their eyes will light up and they’ll shout, “Holy shit, it’s a trespass to chattels! I finally get to use the word ‘chattel’ for real!”
I hope you’re not attached to your shih tzu.
Q: On Sunday, a drone appeared at the dog park wielding a 3D printed bazooka, nuked my American bulldog, and left. It passed by several other dogs to kill mine. I suspect it was a hate crime. What do I do?
There are two possible scenarios, depending on where you live.
If you live in Texas or Montana, then the drone was clearly operated by the government and was likely piloted by Obama himself. It has begun. Gather your weapons. We meet at the nearest Wildlife Refuge. BRING SNACKS.
If you live in another state in the U.S., the drone was likely operated by someone rich enough to own a 3D printer. If they’re rich enough to own a 3D printer, then they’re also rich enough to file articles of incorporation around the drone. As we know from Hobby Lobby, corporations have constitutional rights, as well, including the right to exercise their sincerely held religious beliefs. If it can be shown that the corporation operating the drone strongly believed that your dog being at a dog park on a Sunday violated their religion, then I’m sad to say that you’ll have an uphill battle ahead of you. Good luck.
Did you want to know what would happen if your dog attacked a drone?