Shoot the Dog

Everything About Fiction You Never Wanted to Know.

"But I've sworn to protect this sorry world, and sometimes that means saying and doing what other people can't -- they shouldn't have to."

When a protagonist does an ambiguously (a)moral act because current circumstances make it the most pragmatic and logical thing to do. If The Hero performs the job himself, he may even go so far as to hide it from the rest of the cast (possibly with serious repercussions later) due to the risk of compromising his moral standards, or they might say What the Hell, Hero? to which he might reply I Did What I Had to Do. Otherwise, he may delegate it to the Anti-Hero or The Lancer, whose reputations won't be hurt as severely for the deed. May demonstrate What You Are in the Dark.

If one Shoots The Dog too often, one runs the risk of becoming a Knight Templar or Poisonous Friend. Alternatively, a Psycho Sidekick, popular in hard-boiled crime fiction since the 1980s or so, is a character whom the author approves of whose main purpose is to Shoot the Dog whenever necessary. The Spock is also likely to suggest shooting the dog. Depending on the slant of the series, he will also be the one to carry about the shooting, or the characters will Take a Third Option at the last minute. If the author doesn't want to compromise his heroes' goodness, he'll have Big Damn Villains do it. One common way to show the emotional pain this causes is by showing the shooter Cradling Their Kill.

This trope is named after the climactic scene of Old Yeller, where the titular dog is literally shot to put it out of its misery.

For a diametric opposition that makes you cheer for the hero's senselessness, see Honor Before Reason. For extra anguish, it may well have been a Senseless Sacrifice because the one shot was no longer a threat. Expect the shooter to go for the most Jerkass solution even when Fridge Logic indicates much less morally compromising ones are possible, because Murder Is the Best Solution.

Note that this trope is not Kick the Dog Only More So; kicking the dog is the villain being senselessly evil just to show the audience how evil he is. Shooting the Dog is an ostensibly heroic character doing something that is necessary but morally gray. (Bad Dreams are far more likely after shooting the dog than after kicking it.) And it also has nothing to do with the desire every 8-bit gamer ever has had to shoot the Duck Hunt dog.

If an actual pet is involved, this is an exception to Infant Immortality. This may or may not be confused with Don't Shoot The Puppy., but do not confuse with Shoot the Shaggy Dog, which is a particular form of Downer Ending.

Compare/contrast with Light Is Not Good, Omniscient Morality License, and Cruel to Be Kind. The version where a bad guy does this for a hero is Bad Guys Do the Dirty Work.

Examples of Shoot the Dog include:

Anime and Manga

  • In Naruto, Naruto's classmates plan with Sasuke. Planned to prevent another war from Sasuke going too far and to end Naruto's suffering over his promise. They're very much NOT happy about it, though.
  • Neon Genesis Evangelion has probably one of the most painful examples, for both the main character and the audience. Shinji is forced to kill Kaworu, the only person who truly understood him. Otherwise, humanity will be destroyed. What makes this even more painful is that Shinji spends an entire minute deciding whether or not to do it, while we see a long shot of EVA-01 holding Kaworu, accompanied only by Beethoven music - ironically, Kaworu's favorite. Needless to say, Shinji suffers yet another Heroic BSOD after that.
    • Gendo himself does this when faced with the 13th Angel, Bardiel, who had just taken control of the Eva Unit 03 moments before the first test was supposed to start. When Shinji refused to destroy the Angel (and the Eva with it) due to the risk of injuring the Eva's pilot, Gendo takes control of the situation and takes Eva Unit 01 from Shinji's control, using a backup system to do the deed. Needless to say, Shinji isn't happy, and attempts a Roaring Rampage of Revenge... before being stopped by Gendo himself.
    • Arguably, most of Gendou's actions could also fall under this trope, though whether or not he's being morally ambiguous for the greater good, or just a manipulative bastard is debatable for most of the series.
  • Almost anything that happens in Code Geass is this, at least from the point of view of whoever is pulling the trigger. What do you expect with a world where nearly everyone is a Magnificent Bastard (or a loyal minion of one) and Well-Intentioned Extremist?
    • Of note is the Euphinator Incident, in which Lelouch accidentally commands Euphemia to murder an entire stadium of families who were going to start a new life under peace. The only way to stop this is to kill Euphemia.
      • Also, this is the most "kinder" explanation suggested for Lelouch ordering the massacre of children in the Geass Cult. Said children were already trained as Tyke Bombs, so Lelouch fans think that they wouldn't have been ever able to adapt themselves to society - like it happened to Mao and Rolo. The subject is very, VERY prone to bring up flame wars, though.
      • Of course, considering how powerful Geass Users can be, even children, it would be nearly impossible to achieve victory without killing them. Lelouch's other plan, using his own Geass, suffers from one problem: Geass that do not require eye-contact. Though Lelouch does acquire Jeremiah, who can make that possible, the same event leaves him without the desire to do so.
      • Additionally, there is the incident where Rolo ganks a fellow intelligence operative for accidentally walking in on a conversation about Geass. Rolo specifically invokes this trope when Viletta criticizes him for doing so.
  • Trigun: When Zazie the Beast, a particularly cruel member of the Gung-Ho-Guns who happens to look like a pre-teen, was gunned down by Wolfwood before he could kill another person. This enraged Vash, who has an extremely strict code against not killing anyone no matter what.
    • Wolfwood's anime backstory reveals that most of his life consisted of shooting various dogs, but in the end regretted he could never walk a path as straight as Vash's.
  • Roy Mustang from Fullmetal Alchemist does this quite often.
    • Scar has an almost literal shoot-the-dog moment. Or at least, a magically-rend-to-microscopic-pieces the alchemically created dog/human abomination when he executes a mercy killing upon what used to be Nina and Alexander.
    • Major General Olivier Mila Armstrong. In the Grand Finale, unlike Roy's team, they do NOT "shoot to wound".

Olivier: However... you'll find I'm not as merciful as the "Hero of Ishbal"!

  • In the finale of Episode 77 of Sonic X, Tails is forced to fire upon Cosmo, who has transformed into her adult form, and has bonded with the Metarex to form a weakpoint for Tails. Tails, having fallen in love with Cosmo, does with great sadness pull the trigger. The 4kids version of this is far less dramatic/sad, and actually makes Tails look like a bit of a heartless prick.
  • In the Body Horror themed Parasyte, an ally of the hero kills the creature that has killed and taken the form of the hero's mother.
  • In Yu Yu Hakusho, the Urameshi Team is stuck playing a video game come to life with a little boy named Amanuma. This means that everything in the game plays out exactly the same in real life. If Yusuke and the heroes lose, they can just start over until they win; if they win, the villain, Amanuma, dies. Kurama, realizing that this is a trap and that Sensui intends for them to be stuck because they can't kill a kid, beats him anyway. What's more, he tells Amanuma exactly how things will play out to mess with his head, so that he can win faster. Amanuma, being a child, freaks out and loses in an Alas, Poor Villain way. Fortunately, Death Is Cheap and Koenma has a Reset Button handy... which drains his power and prevents from stopping Sensui on his own, which was Sensui's REAL goal in setting the heroes against Amanuma.
    • Incidentally, this little stunt pisses off Kurama to the point enough so that when they confront the next of Sensui's super-powered henchmen, he simply takes a step forward and decapitates the guy in a blink. And that's just the start...
  • In Narutaru, Shiina confronts her close friend Hiroko at her home following a number of gruesome murders committed by Oni, Hiroko's Mon. After failing to talk her out of her insanity, as well as the realisation that her own father is in danger of being killed by Oni too, Shiina tries strangling Hiroko to death in a rage, but finds that she can't bring herself to do it... so her own Mon Hoshimaru has to finish the job for her. She suffers an Heroic BSOD afterwards. In the anime, the dog ends up being shaggy because the epilogue follows almost immediately afterwards.
  • Rossiu's job in the second half of Tengen Toppa Gurren Lagann, which is to do the "most logical" thing, while the Hero does the Rule of Cool thing. In a short time he orders the execution of Simon to put down the riots (which doesn't work) and gives in to the Anti-Spiral's ultimatum, thereby trying to leave hundreds of thousands to die so he can save a tiny minority... except not, since the Anti-Spirals plan to kill everyone anyway.
  • The main protagonists of Weiss Kreuz are formed into a team of assassins for the express purpose of shooting the dog whenever necessary, a point which his teammates make explicitly when Omi has a crisis of conscience.
  • In Baccano!! Drugs and Dominoes, Luck Gandor kills Gustavo himself after preventing Eve from shooting him, which given the circumstances is probably this trope in action, although Luck has a bout of Post Dramatic Stress Disorder before he can explain his reasons.
  • Kino's Journey. A young woman whose love was killed by a gunfighter travels the world with a male admirer, preaching nonviolence. Kino mentions that it's strange they've never run into trouble. It turns out the man is a highly-skilled gunfighter who is secretly killing anyone who would threaten her.
  • In the Legend of Galactic Heroes Gaiden Disgrace, sweet innocent old lady Johanna tells Kircheis he'll have to shoot her to stop her destroying critical evidence against her husband (guilty of causing the deaths of any number of people). Kircheis just can't bring himself to do it; luckily (and tragically) Keyserling, who was in love with Johanna and previously orchestrated the coverup to protect her husband, arrives to do it for him. Kircheis later thinks that Reinhard would have fired had he been in the same situation, and that's why it's important for them to stick together. Perhaps a reversed example as it's the sidekick, Kircheis, who needs the main character, Reinhard, to shoot his dogs for him.
  • In Elfen Lied, during the finale Kouta is forced to fulfill a childhood promise to Lucy and kill her when she poses a danger to the world. She is also literally falling apart so it could be a doubled-up example. Though both of her good personas urge him to this while they have control he at first lacks the will to do it. The third persona, said to be the voice of her murderously-programmed DNA, then asserts control, but is ultimately in so much pain, she too urges him to do it, and this time he does.
  • Occurs towards the end of Mobile Suit Gundam 00. Anew Returner has managed to break the Mind Control of Big Bad Ribbons Almark and is about to surrender to her lover, Lockon, who is urging her to have a Heel Face Turn so she can join Celestial Being for real. However, Ribbons takes control again as soon as Lockon lowers his guard, forcing teammate Setsuna to kill Anew. Understandably, Lockon takes it badly, but sorta recovers in a surprisingly short time.
    • A similar example happened in Mobile Suit Gundam SEED Destiny: In episode 32, Shinn manages to calm Stellar down when she destroys everything in her path due to being terrified of her own possible death. Their reunion is short-lived when she spots Kira/Freedom Gundam; Stellar then recalls Neo's words (if she doesn't fight, she will die, and so will her friends and loved ones) and massively freaks out. Shinn tries to calm her down again to no avail.., until Kira intervenes and destroys the Destroy Gundam, killing Stellar in process.
  • In Episode 5 of the 1968 Cyborg 009 series, Joe does this literally.
  • Reiha from the Vampire Princess Miyu TV series views her killings of humans when she teams up with Miyu like this. Specifically seen with Kayo's Knight Templar Big Brother, who goes all Knife Nut on Miyu when under a Shinma's More Than Mind Control; Reiha freezes him to death and even reprehends Miyu when she questions her. Miyu has no option but biting the grieving Kayo, turning her into an Empty Shell.
  • Literally what the Anti-Hero Ogami does in Code Breaker right in the first chapter, though replace "Shoot" with "Break the Neck of." The aforementioned dog got mortally wounded trying to protect Sakura from a bunch of gang members, and Ogami, before burning and killing all of the bad guys, goes up to the dog and commends it for its efforts to save Sakura. And then promptly snaps its neck to "help the pain."
  • In Nabari no Ou, Aizawa kills a mission target when Kumohira's moral code makes him hesitate.
  • Noir: It turns out that this is the entire purpose of the assassin duo named Noir, by becoming a scapegoat of sorts for humanity, killing people so that others don't have to.
  • In Mahou Sensei Negima, Mana tends to do this sort of thing, such as being willing to K.O. people who are in danger of triggering the Power Incontinence of The World Tree. Most recently, she was literally going to shoot Fake!Asuna[1] to determine whether she was real or not. Negi stopped her, though.
  • Dragon Ball Z: Krillin would have stabbed Vegeta if not for Goku talking him out of it.
    • Probably doesn't count; this was less a case of an unreasonable or questionable action the heroes would morally oppose doing, so much as Goku acting solely on his Blood Knight tendencies and wanting to fight Vegeta again (and risk the planet's destruction again, Not that that matters in Dragonball Z, but...). It turned out well in the end, but at the time it just made Goku seem like he valued fighting more than the planet and his friends/family.
  • Gunslinger Girl has Jose and Henrietta do this simultaneously in chapter 83 as part of their earlier Suicide Pact.
  • Near the end of Digimon Tamers. Janya Wong figures out a way to defeat the D-Reaper. However, this method has the nasty side effect of forcing all Digimon (specifically, the ones that just helped save the world) back into the Digital World, with no guarantee that they could ever return. At a loss for any other options, Janya goes through with it, even going so far as to trick his Digimon-loving son into helping. (Henry's reaction to this varies by translation: he forgives his father in the original Japanese, but the English dub strongly implies the opposite.)
  • In Bleach, at one point the quincies kill a large number (tens of thousands) of hollows, a kind of monster that Was Once a Man. Because this eliminates the soul of the hollow in question entirely, the Soul Reapers are forced to respond by killing a corresponding number of their own citizens to maintain the balance and prevent the universe from breaking.

Comic Books

  • In Alan Moore's Miracleman, the titular character executes the innocent Johnny Bates to permanently prevent his evil alter-ego Kid Miracleman from resurfacing. Subverted in that Miracleman had already thrown a bus full of people at Bates/Miracleman without a second thought. The caption implies he did so while with at least partial awareness of the innocent deaths that would cause. And, of course, it didn't hurt Bates anyway. Which Miracleman may have known.
    • Miracleman also kills Gargunza's dog to stop it from turning back into a monster. With a rock.
  • Ozymandias's plan in Watchmen is a nuke the dog. Then later he has to disintegrate his beloved pet, a genetically engineered lynx, in an attempt to destroy Dr. Manhattan
  • Just about everything Nick Fury does in the Marvel Universe falls into this category.
  • In Ultimate Marvel, dog-shooting is a national sport. Except for Ultimate Spider-Man, of course, he's still Just a Kid.
  • Invincible once killed future Immortal, who turned into dictator and was begging him to do it.
  • In Batman, Jason Todd thought he was doing this for Batman and Nightwing back when he was more Hero than Anti. Then he went really dark.
  • The ending the Hack Slash story Little Children.
  • In Shade the Changing Man, Shade is forced to kill an enemy that can't be reasoned with or contained.

"I can't defend it. It was probably wrong... but... things aren't always black and white, are they? Sometimes I guess things get so gray you can't do what's right... only what's going to be least wrong."

  • Thorgal has one case of this when Thorgal and Shania end up petitioning one of the gods for the return of Thorgal's wife. Said god lives on a box floating in the middle of a void filled with threads, with each thread representing a single human life. All the god requires to return Thorgal's wife is for Thorgal to take his bow and fire an arrow in any given direction, which will be certain to at some point sever a thread and kill someone. When Thorgal can't bring himself to do it, Shania takes the bow from him and does it instead. The thread she severs turns out to be her own.
  • In 52, Renee Montoya and The Question are at the wedding of Black Adam and Isis looking for a suicide bomber. When they find the bomber they discover that it is a young girl, just a kid, but they are too far away from her to reach her before she detonates her bomb. Since an explosion in this crowded space would result in hundreds, possibly thousands of deaths Renee realizes she has no choice and shoots the bomber, killing her before she can activate the device. Charlie, and later Black Adam himself, assure her that she had no choice, but Renee is traumatised by the fact that she just killed a little kid.
  • One absolutely heartbreaking example appears in Ultimate X-Men. An unfortunate teenager wakes up one morning and discovers that he's a mutant whose sole ability is to emit an Instant Death Radius of a few hundred feet that kills every living thing around him. By the time he realizes what's happening, he has unwittingly killed his entire town including his family and friends. Frightened out of his mind, he hides in a nearby cave. Then Wolverine, who is able to survive thanks to his Healing Factor, appears. He gives the kid a beer and tells him what happened. In the end, to keep the kid from accidentally hurting anyone else and to keep his existence a secret (since news of a mutant with that kind of power would destroy any chance of peace between mutants and humans), Wolverine kills him. By that point it's almost a Mercy Killing since the kid can't live with being responsible for so much death.
  • In The Walking Dead, one of the childer in the group, Ben, kills and cuts apart his twin sibling. This prompts an eight-year-old Carl Grimes, son of the protagonist, to shoot Ben, because he was "too dangerous".
  • In Green Lantern Corps #66, the combined corruption of Parallax and the Black Lanterns have made it impossible to heal Mogo. As long as Mogo is active, he will continue to send out Parallax corrupted Green Lantern Rings across the universe, dooming countless billions to die by the hands of those who should be their champions. Faced with no alternative, John Stewart channels Black Lantern energy and destroys Mogo.
  • From The Outsiders: Shift and Indigo
  • Doctor Strange will do whatever is necessary to protect the Earth and his loved ones. He'll agonize about it afterward, but he'll still do it.

Fan Works


  • The Trope Namer incident in Old Yeller was a Mercy Kill for the eponymous beloved dog who had turned rabid (and a coming-of-age moment for Travis).
  • In the original version of Insomnia, a dog is literally shot to provide key evidence. In the remake, Al Pacino shoots a dead dog.
  • In Winter in Wartime, Michiel's horse breaks a leg while he and Jack are escaping from Nazi's. Jack Mercy Kill 's the horse
  • Averted in Dog Soldiers at the start when the soldier refuses to shoot a dog. Arguably played straight later with Meg
  • The Operative in Serenity, the Firefly movie, describes this as his raison d'etre - his purpose in life, he says, is to create a world where monsters like himself will not be allowed to exist.
  • In one of the more heartbreaking scenes of the I Am Legend flick, Neville hauls his dog (and only living/sane companion) Sam, who had been mauled fending off the infected to his secret base, injected her with the only experimental cure that had even begun to show results, and hugged her. Then, as the hair loss and aggression became undeniable, he snapped the dogs neck. Cue Heroic BSOD.
  • Full Metal Jacket, at the very end, when Joker delivers the Coup De Grace to a downed Vietcong sniper who had shot two men down from said platoon and proceeded to torture them with more shots to their limbs to entice more of the platoon to enter the killzone to save them. She was also a teenage girl. The rest of the platoon wanted to let her slowly bleed to death, but Joker gave her a Mercy Kill.
  • At the end of Road to Perdition, Tom Hanks shoots Jude Law so that his son will be able to go through life having never killed anyone. In the original graphic novel, his son is the one who pulls the trigger.
    • In the previous scene, Tom Hanks guns down his father-figure and mentor Rooney (played by Paul Newman) because it is the only way to reach Rooney's Ax Crazy son and avenge his dead wife and son. Hanks' character is visibly torn apart by killing Rooney, but has no choice at this point.
  • Pretty much the entire premise behind The Wind That Shakes the Barley. The Irish Revolution Is Not Vilified, but it doesn't look like fun, either.
  • This was essentially the philosophical heart of the Jet Li wuxia movie Hero (Ying Xiong for Mandarin speakers). While most of the protagonists oppose the King of Qin, who intends to conquer and unify all the neighboring kingdoms, one of them realizes that the peace and prosperity of unification will far outweigh the short-term suffering of the war. It's a weird loop, in that Character A is urging Character B to let Character C Shoot the Dog, but there it is.
  • Sunshine (2007). After a fight with a fellow crewmember and an Important Haircut, Mace becomes determined to focus entirely on completing the mission (which, to be fair, involves saving the entire human race). He first wants to ignore the Distress Call from Icarus I which turns out to be the far better thing to have done, and later volunteers to execute Trey so as to preserve what's left of their oxygen supply. Trey, as it turns out, is already dead.
  • Mad Max 2 has a rather tragic literal example.
  • Done with somewhat Narmful offhandedness in Starship Troopers; once when Rasczak shoots his sergeant after she's caught by the Bugs ("I'd expect any of you to do the same for me!"), and then when Rico, of course, shoots a Bug-bitten Rasczak.
  • In X Men the Last Stand, when Jean Grey has completely lost control of her alternate personality "The Phoenix", Wolverine is the only one with the fortitude (both moral and physical) to put her down in the end, despite being in love with her. To take the edge off the trope, she regains enough control to request that he kill her. In the original comic saga, Wolverine pointedly can't bring himself to do it.
  • Done in The Sand Pebbles by Jake Holman (Steve McQueen). After Po-han is captured and is being tortured, the San Pablo is leaving the dock where Po-han is being tortured. Holman is ordered not to fire at the Chinese who are torturing Po-han, so Holman shoots Po-han to put him out of his misery.
  • Subverted in Zombieland. Wichita asks Tallahassee and Columbus to perform a mercy killing on her "infected" sister, Little Rock, when she stops them, and insists that she be the one to do the deed. She then promptly turns the gun on the two men so that she and her sister can steal their weapons and vehicle.
  • The Assassination of Richard Nixon: This trope happens near the end of the movie involving Sam Bicke(Sean Penn).
  • The Fly 2: When Martin (Brundlefly's son) had to put a mutated golden retriever in horrible pain out of its misery by suffocating it with chloroform, after his employer promised him he put it down two years ago. Most gut-wretching scene ever.
  • In the Kingdom of Heaven's Director's Cut, Princess Sybilla tearfully poisons her own son to death, having found out that the child is an Ill Boy afflicted with leprosy - therefore he's condemned to a life of incurable pain, like his uncle King Baldwin.
  • In The Warlords, Jet Li is a general whose army has been laying siege to a well fortified town for over a year with neither side making any progress. The Empress tires of the stalemate and has given him a deadline of a few more days. His supplies are running out, and so is the food supply of the besieged town. Both armies are about to starve to death. Li's second in command negotiates a truce with the town's leader, and they agree to surrender the town to Li's army on the condition that they share their food with his people. Li however did not authorize this agreement and afterwards arrives at the cold reality that there is only enough food for his own army to survive for a few more days; were he to share that food with the enemy's troops, neither army would survive. He reluctantly orders the massacre of the entire town that had just surrendered to him. Unarmed, they are all shot down in a hail of arrows. Li's supplies were enough to sustain his army long enough to reach the next town.
  • The Guns of Navarone. Captain Mallory has discovered that Anna is a traitor and is forced by the circumstances to execute her. As he prepares to do so, Anna's friend Maria shoots her instead so Mallory doesn't have to.
  • One of the alternate endings for Se7en had Somerset shooting John Doe for killing Mills' wife so that Mills won't have to go to jail for it.
  • 633Squadron. Norwegian resistance leader Lieutenant Erik Bergman has been captured and taken to the local Gestapo HQ for torture and interrogation, so RAF Wing Commander Roy Grant goes over and delivers a precision strike with a single Mosquito, both to silence Bergman and to put an end to the torture.
  • In 2010's The Expendables, Barney is forced to kill Gunner when he goes rogue in a drug-induced homicidal rampage. Averted when it is revealed in the end that it was merely a Disney Death.
  • Averted in Shoot Em Up, where Clive Owen's Mr Smith refuses to shoot an Alsatian to cover his escape, because he likes dogs.
  • In Fresh (1994), the title character literally shoots the dog, when it's clear he won't be able to look after it, after his friend who was taking care of it dies.
  • Daniel Craig's character in Defiance shoots his horse so that the people in his camp can eat again.
    • Similarly, in True Grit, Rooster shoots the horse when it is unable to carry on due to exhaustion, and he carries Mattie on foot.
  • In Equilibrium, lots of cute little puppies are about to be executed. Cleric John Preston saves one, and to protect it, wipes out an entire squad of soldiers.
  • In The Lincoln Lawyer, investigator Frank Levin is found dead in his home - and his dog has been shot and killed too.
  • Done spectacularly in the 2004 remake of Dawn of the Dead; not only is an infected character shot to protect the group, but it is given a huge build up with people taking responsibility over the deed, goodbyes being made and last words being said. And then said character is left to die naturally, and only killed by necessity when he becomes a zombie.
  • In Lean on Me, many of Joe Clark's actions have some arguable moral ambiguity to them, from chaining and locking school doors (in violation of fire safety rules) on being told that someone from inside the school let an expelled student into the building, to firing a teacher for picking up trash during the school song for which everyone was told not to move.

Joe: I cried "my God, why has thou forsaken me?" and the Lord said "Joe, you're no damn good. No, I mean this! More than you realize, you're no earthly good at all unless you take this opportunity and do whatever you have to." And he didn't say "Joe, be polite".

  • In Vertical Limit, while trapped in an ice cave on K2, one character murders an injured comrade with a syringe of air, rather than share the drug they need to survive at such a high elevation.


  • A particularly notable instance occurs in Terry Pratchett's Discworld novels. In his later "Witches" books, it is revealed that Granny Weatherwax, a major character of Pratchett's, has had to Shoot the Dog more than a few times in her witching career, with few regrets. In fact, Granny considers part of a witch's job description to be making tough life-or-death decisions so other people don't have to.
    • Perhaps the greatest example of this is Granny Weatherwax choosing whether to save a man's child or his wife. Someone told her afterward she should have allowed him to choose. Her response? "What has he ever done to me that I should hurt him so?"
    • In The Fifth Elephant. Angua (the werewolf) asks if Carrot (her boyfriend) would "put her down" if she became as crazy as her brother. Carrot answers yes. Angua smiles and asks "Promise?"
    • The biggest example of Shoot the Dog in the series was in Night Watch.

"Just in case, and without any feeling of guilt, Vimes removed his knife, and... gave what help he could."

    • Willikins engages in a few of these during Snuff, in part so Vimes - who's already testing his personal limits during the book - doesn't have to. In addition, Wee Mad Arthur's sideplot sees him having to give the same help Vimes did in Night Watch.
  • In The Dark Tower, Roland is forced to choose between finally catching the Man in Black (the only one who can tell him how to reach the Dark Tower) and saving young Jake from falling to his death. As a clue to which he decided on, let's just say he found out how to get to the Tower.
    • To be fair, in Roland's mind, anything is permitted because Roland believes the entirety of all existence (and, indeed, non-existence) is at stake. And Jake gets better. And Roland's belief happens to be right on the money.
  • In John Steinbeck's novel Of Mice and Men, protagonist George is forced to pick up a revolver and kill his mentally handicapped best friend Lennie who has inadvertently killed Curly's wife. George's reasoning for this is to spare Lennie from a horrible death at the hands of the inevitable lynch mob. This trope is also shown in a lesser extent earlier in the novel (with an actual dog, and with the same gun too!).
  • In Robert Newton Peck's A Day No Pigs Would Die the teen protagonist must kill his pet pig to feed his family.
  • The man who later becomes John Clark in Tom Clancy's novels tortures a guy he captured for vital information - using a pressure chamber to induce the bends. He also does other things like assassinating people, and a cat-and-mouse game with some Big Bads near the end. But you can't say you weren't warned: the book's title is Without Remorse.
  • In A Song of Ice and Fire, Eddard Stark takes it upon himself to kill his daughter's pet direwolf at the queen's order rather than allowing the prince's creepy bodyguard to do it, because if he does it himself his daughter can at least feel that her pet died well.
    • Jaime Lannister sees himself as this regarding his most infamous deed, the killing of King Aerys. Lannister was part of the Kingsguard, an elite group of bodyguards and protectors sworn to defend the King and the Royal Family. However, Jaime knows just how psychotic Aerys was, having witnessed his many atrocities first hand. Between the realization that Jaime was only ever accepted into the Kingsguard to be a hostage used against his father, and the knowledge that Aerys was planning to burn down the entire capital city rather than surrender to the rebels marching against him, (a city of more than a million people, mind you) Jaime decided to kill Aerys and all the pyromancers involved to avert this. As a result, Jaime sees himself as a dog shooter. Everyone else sees him as an oathbreaker with Chronic Backstabbing Disorder, which is not helped by Jaime's general Jerkass nature and refusal to disclose what really happened.
  • The Yearling. Does a very good job of illustrating the consequences of not shooting the dog fawn.
  • The Guns of Navarone. Captain Mallory has discovered that Anna is a traitor and is forced by the circumstances to execute her. As he prepares to do so, Anna's friend Maria shoots her instead so Mallory doesn't have to.
  • Watch on the Rhine from the Posleen War Series contains a group example, when Hans Brasche order "only old SS will engage. New men are not to fire except in point self-defense." The situation is that a resurrected Waffen SS is being attacked by a horde of Posleen using massive number of human shields. The new men can't bring themselves to fire on their own species, but the old SS have done it before, so... Actually, there's probably at least one instance of Shoot the Dog in every novel in that series.
  • Although it's built up like this to a degree, the mass murder of Zalasta's cronies in David Eddings' Tamuli trilogy is kind of an aversion. Not only were the dogs in question rabid, but some of the deaths and corpse disposals were just so damn funny.
  • In The Chronicles of Thomas Covenant the Unbeliever, Kevin Landwaster basically did this on a huge scale prior to the beginning of the series. When he saw that the Council of Lords was going to lose the war against Despite, he performed the Ritual of Desecration as a combination of this trope, Senseless Sacrifice and Taking You with Me.
    • This led the subsequent Lords of the Land to the Oath of Peace, as one of their leaders put it, if it comes down to a choice of Desecration or Defeat, then they will permit themselves to be defeated rather than desecrate again.
  • Harry Potter: Dumbledore arranges for Snape to kill him in the sixth book for two reasons -- to protect Snape's Reverse Mole position with the Death Eaters, and because he knew Voldemort had already ordered Draco Malfoy to kill him and he wanted to spare the boy the fate of being a murderer. Although the act of Snape killing Dumbledore is initially viewed by Harry, the readers, and even Snape himself as a villainous act, Dumbledore had previously asserted to Snape that it would be treated as a mercy killing and wouldn't carry the same moral repercussions that cold-blooded murder would -- due to the fact Snape knew that Dumbledore was already weakened and irreparably doomed to die from the curse on Gaunt's ring.
  • In The Lymond Chronicles, Lymond frequently has to take these kinds of actions. The worst is when he saves his friends and defeats the Big Bad by ordering the death of his own two-year-old son. Later, he whips one of his men nearly to death as punishment for a minor error in order to prevent the tsar from killing the man for sure.
  • This is why Commander Thrawn shoots the Vagaari ships covered in living shields in Outbound Flight; the captives were going to be killed anyway, there was nothing they could do to help them, and the Vagaari had to be stopped.
  • In Star Trek: New Frontier, the much talked-about Grissom incident came down to a war tribunal started by Calhoun's captain. Calhoun, charged with mutiny by said captain, stepped in to stop him from killing the leader that led him to this madness (by killing the captain's brother and daughter). He comes to the conclusion that he must kill the leader. However, he does it in a way that could be construed as self-defense because the leader hand picked a phaser off of the captain. Calhoun resigns anyway because even after Shooting The Dog, he failed to keep his captain from committing suicide.
  • In Dan Abnett's Warhammer 40,000 Gaunts Ghosts novel, The Mole, revealed at the end, sneers that Gaunt has no proof and won't shoot him without it—he's read his file. Rawne retorts that The Mole hasn't read his file and shoots him.
  • In the fourth book of Codex Alera, Lord Kalarus has bound one of the Great Furies, the animating spirit of a volcano, to him, so that when he dies it will erupt and destroy the nearby city of Kalare plus all the refugees that will have flooded to the city, the armies of Kalarus, and the armies of the First Lord that will be laying siege to the city. First Lord Gaius Sextus does not approve, and with the help of Amara and Bernard goes through a rather grueling ordeal to sneak in close enough to prevent this. Since he could not prevent the release of the Fury, instead he releases it early, reasoning that this way, even though the city still dies, the thousands of refugees and soldiers that would have been caught in the later blast are spared.
  • In The Handmaid's Tale, the main character and a fellow handmaid are forced to witness a supposed rapist being murdered via an angry mob of women egged on by government officials. Her companion, however, knows that the man is actually a member of the resistance who has been caught, and the only thing she can do in order to avoid giving herself away as a traitor is to kick the man violently several times in the head until he falls unconscious (or dead), sparing him torture at the hands of the mob before he dies.
  • Nonfiction example, Karen Pryor wrote a whole book about how not to do this.
  • In The Dresden Files book ""Changes"", Harry does this brutally. A great ritual has built up enough magic to enable a sacrifice to destroy an entire bloodline; Harry and his family is the target for this, but the Red Court Vampires aren't being picky. And by the time they get there, the ritual has to go off, or the results won't be pretty. So what does Harry do? He prods his ex-lover and mother of his child to ask The Mole questions that lead to her going berserk, murdering him, drinking his blood, and completing her change into a Red Court Vampire. The resulting distraction allows Harry to disable everyone else there, and use the newest vampire of the Red Court as a sacrifice to target the spell. It's also a Crowning Moment of Awesome, but damn.
    • Made the more painful by the fact that it was entirely avoidable, the situation had arisen because of a long chain of very human and understandable, but still very bad decisions on the part of various people, but especially Harry and Susan. One of the themes of the series that has emerged is the critical importance of free will, and how good decisions usually produce good results, and bad decisions...the Archangel Uriel has been kind of "coaching" Harry on this, but Harry has been a bit of a slow learner on the subject, and it's cost him dearly. Susan has an even worse track record of bad choices, and paid an even higher price.
  • Anita of Anita Blake brutally tortures and kills a man to gain information about where Richard's mother and brother are being held in Blue Moon. She decided to do it instead using slower methods due to the revelation that they were being tortured and raped. Several of Anita's people begged to be allowed to Shoot the Dog for her, but she decided she couldn't ask anyone to do something she refused do herself. This is the moment she identifies as being the trigger for setting her on the path of becoming a sociopath.
  • The nigh-pacifistic Atticus Finch in To Kill a Mockingbird shoots a rabid dog. The fact that he took off his glasses and fired just one shot from a good distance, astonishing his son, makes it arguably a Moment of Awesome.
  • In Moses, Man of the Mountain, in divergence with the biblical version of events, Moses is forced to kill Aaron on Mount Sinai because of his poisonous influence on the Hebrews.
  • Honor Harrington: Citizen Admiral Thomas Theisman decides that Haven has had enough show trials:
  • Alexander the Great did this several times and in Mary Renault's The Persian Boy the most logical reasons are presented. After uncovering a plot to assassinate him, he kills Philotas the instigator, and also has his father Parmenion killed. In Renault's version, this is so there won't be a big blood feud, as Parmenion is in charge of troops and supplies guarding the army's rear. When Alexander kills the 7000 Punjabi mercenaries, Renault says this is because after he'd defeated these soldiers, he'd signed them up (or thought he had -- there might have been a bad translation) to work for him. But they began packing up and moving out in the middle of the night, which boded no good. He knows history will look down on him for it, but "it was necessary".
  • Happens often in The Forest of Hands and Teeth, though the aversion of this sets the plot in motion. Mary's mother is bitten by her zombie father, and instead of being killed before she can turn into a zombie, she decides to just be allowed to turn. Later on, her brother's wife Beth becomes a Zombie Infectee and has to be killed before she turns, despite her brother's objections. Even later on, Mary's lover is infected and she ends up having to behead him herself.
  • In the Book of Amber Corwin's blinding and imprisonment is shown to be a shoot the dog moment long after the fact. Julian explains to Corwin that if Eric had left him alive and at liberty, the Bleys-Brand-Fiona cabal would have almost certainly killed him in short order. Blinding was the only way to leave him alive, but harmless.
  • In Queste, the fourth book of Septimus Heap, Septimus and Jenna fight the Toll-Man and throw him down the Abyss, causing a Heroic BSOD in Jenna. It is revealed that the Toll-Man was under Demonic Possession then and almost managed to kill Septimus.
  • In Derek Robinson's Piece of Cake, Barton literally shoots the dog. The dog's master had just been killed, so it was either a mercy killing, or he did it to stop the dog howling so he could get to sleep. Or because the dog wouldn't stop pissing on people's legs every chance it got. That's why it's called Black Comedy.

Live Action TV

  • Happens quite a lot in Charmed:
    • The season 1 finale saw the sisters getting attacked by a demon who had a master of time on his side so that whenever the demon himself was killed by the sisters, the day would rewind and start over. The sisters discovered that the only way to stop this was to allow the day to end without vanquishing the demon. Prue cast a spell to fast forward the rest of the day but it meant letting Andy die as he had sacrificed himself to save the sisters in the third version of the day (Phoebe and Piper had died in the previous two versions instead).
    • The episode "A Witch In Time" had Phoebe getting a premonition of her boyfriend dying in a robbery and she saved him, only for the Angel of Death to keep trying to kill him that resulted in her and Paige being killed by demons. Piper went back in time and was forced to give Phoebe the wrong directions during the robbery so that her boyfriend would be killed this time.
    • Phoebe's rebellious high school self eventually took over her and she busted an old school friend out of prison and he went on a rampage, using her powers to his advantage. Once the cops were after him again, he ordered her to change his appearance magically. She and Paige made him look like Chris who was being hunted by demons. The demons then appeared and killed the man, thinking him to be Chris.
  • Buffy the Vampire Slayer: Giles prevents the hellgoddess Glory from ever returning by suffocating her human vessel Ben. He specifies that he's doing this because... or so that... Buffy never would. (The page quote comes from earlier in that episode, where he foresees having to do such a thing with Dawn.)
    • This does create some Moral Dissonance because only two episodes previously, Buffy's fight with the Knights of Byzantium explicitly resulted in nearly a dozen deaths, including one knight killed when Buffy threw an axe into his chest. This, however, happened in battle with well-armed and armored warriors, not to a currently-helpless, badly-injured person.
    • In a later season, the show having gotten a bit darker or at least grayer, Giles confronts Buffy about whether she would make the same choice again (Dawn vs. Saving the World) and she admits that life has taught her some dogs have to be shot and now she would sacrifice even Dawn if she had to in order to prevent the Apocalypse. She even outright tells Principal Wood she would be willing to let Spike kill him if Wood forces the issue, because Spike is the more useful soldier in the coming battle and she has to make the tough decisions if the world is going to survive.
    • Buffy herself has had to shoot the dog. In "Becoming, Part II", seconds after her vampire boyfriend Angel has his soul restored, the ritual he performed when he was the soulless Angelus kicks off and threatens to drag all of Earth into Hell. The only way Buffy can save the world is by killing Angel and consigning him to Hell instead... which she does.
    • Wesley tries to get the group to do this when the Big Bad of Season 3 tries to bargain with them using Willow as a hostage. Wesley argues that the potential death of tens of thousands if they accept the deal far outweighs the certain death of one person if they refuse. Willow's boyfriend Oz breaks the Applied Phlebotinum that would be used to destroy the Box of Gavrok. The Scoobies give the Big Bad the box in exchange for Willow, deciding to simply ignore Wesley from that point on. It's in stark contrast to the Angel spin-off where Wesley's sort of advice tends to be the decision that's often much more likely to be taken.
  • The crew in Angel, consistently and awesomely due to this show being Darker and Edgier than its parent show. For example, Wesley torturing a female druggie, Angel allowing Darla and Drusilla to kill a lot of Wolfram & Hart employees, and pretty much anything the recurring villain Holtz ever does.
  • Star Trek: Deep Space Nine has several examples:
    • Section 31 is a secret group in Starfleet, which performs rather shady actions while giving Starfleet plausible deniability. Suspicious fans wondered if this was Lampshade Hanging to explain how the on-screen portrayal of the Federation became less idealistic over time.
    • "In the Pale Moonlight": Garak and Sisko hatch a morally ambiguous plot to frame the Dominion for plotting an attack on the Romulan Empire. This plot was recognised as a fake by a Romulan Senator who was promptly murdered by Garak. Though angry at first, Sisko eventually came to grudgingly accept that it was a necessity. While some fans consider this to be one of the best episodes in the entire series, others interpret Sisko's attitude at the end of the episode as Stupid Good: Garak did what Sisko's plan logically led to, but Sisko kept clinging to a vision of himself that was incompatible with what he actually wanted—Romulan intervention in the war to save Earth and the Federation. Then again, Garak explicitly calls him on this ("That's why you brought me in remember?") and points out that the self-respect of one Star Fleet officer (plus a few not-so-innocent dogs getting shot) is well worth it as a cost for saving their entire region of the galaxy from the Dominion in the long-run.
    • Another Deep Space Nine episode, "Body Parts", features Quark hiring Garak to commit murder.

Rom: You're hiring Garak to kill Brunt?
Quark: No, I'm hiring him to kill me.

    • Garak pretty much spends the whole series carrying a fully loaded dog-rifle, just waiting for the right moment to use it.
  • Star Trek: Enterprise also has an episode in the third season where Archer tosses a man into an airlock and then drains the air to torture him for information. Another episode had them commit an act of piracy in desperation later in the season.
  • Ironic reversal: Xena: Warrior Princess had Gabrielle saving her potentially-future-demonic-minion infant daughter Hope by not killing her in secret. Later events strongly indicate she probably should have.
    • Later events also give the impression that it might not have worked (she came back from being poisoned and the body burned, after all) and that Gabrielle might have been correct all along: Hope clearly cared for her mother and was hurt about being abandoned. Perhaps being brought up by a loving parent to teach her right from wrong might have done some good. Or perhaps not. Regardless, secretly not-killing her clearly didn't help.
  • Jack Bauer on Twenty Four has been called upon to do this sort of thing numerous times during the series run, often to create plausible deniability for higher-ups during times when he's not officially on CTU's payroll. Examples include executing and beheading a witness in a criminal prosecution (to get undercover with the man he was to rat out); staging the execution of a captured terrorist's children (to get him to talk); breaking the ringleader of a drug cartel out of a maximum security prison (to intercept a bio-weapon his cartel was about to buy); threatening to expose a terrorist's innocent daughter to a fatal virus (to make him talk); threatening to kill a suspect whose lawyer had exempted him from questioning (again, to make him talk); invading the Chinese consulate and kidnapping a Chinese national, and sacrificing his lover's estranged husband (who took a bullet for Jack early in the day) to save said national, ultimately ending up in a Chinese prison for it (to insulate the US government from reprisal); and hijacking Marine One and holding the President hostage (to get a confession of the crimes he'd committed). He also does shoot a dog, but that was in self defence.
    • His shooting dead of Nina Myers in Season 3, on the other hand, was plain revenge-fuelled murder.
  • Law and Order Special Victims Unit: In the episode "Rage," Olivia shoots the perp engaged in a personal battle of wills and wits with Elliot because she knew he wanted Elliot to shoot him since If You Kill Him You Will Be Just Like Him.
  • Battlestar Galactica has made this an almost weekly theme. Laura Roslin and Saul Tigh are the show's unquestioned champions - the former going so far as to kidnap and fake the death of a newborn unbeknownst to her parents and the latter going so far as to poison his own wife in order to give her a peaceful death after she was caught collaborating with the Cylons. (Probably the kindest thing he could have done, seeing what happens to other collaborators in the very next episode.)
    • Mind you, reports of her death might have been exaggerated.
    • Don't forget Al-Queda-style suicide bombing and planned genocide via biological weapon!
    • Canine execution via firearms starts up in the pilot miniseries and just keeps on going. Leaving behind ships that can't jump to FTL and Helo gunning down a man trying to jump onto an already-full Raptor are just two of the ugly decisions characters make. And things get worse as the series progresses.
    • Things get pretty dark pretty damn fast on that show.
  • In Doctor Who, the Doctor has often found himself taking this role; it's especially become a character trait in his ninth and tenth incarnations. Instances include, in "Dalek" sealing his companion in a bunker with a Dalek in order to prevent the Dalek from escaping, and drowning the children of a Giant Spider Empress in "The Runaway Bride" rather than letting them devour the Earth.
    • However, the Ninth Doctor gloriously subverts this trope in "The Parting of the Ways". Poised with a weapon capable of destroying the Dalek Emperor's fleet - along with all of Earth - he cannot pull the trigger. It's all the more satisfying (though heartbreaking) given his actions in "Dalek".
    • Arguably the worst example shown so far is in "The Fire of Pompeii", causing the eruption of Mt. Vesuvius, and the destruction of Pompeii, in order to save the rest of humanity from being turned into Pyroviles.
    • He also destroyed his entire species in order to end the Time War? Sure, the Time Lord authorities had gone Omnicidal Maniac by that point, but he killed everyone on Gallifrey, which presumably included innocents.
    • In the Virgin New Adventures novels set during his seventh incarnation, he would commit such morally questionable acts so often that he quickly turned into a Knight Templar, and remained so for most of the series.
    • In Eleventh Doctor episode "The Girl Who Waited", the Doctor tricks an older version of Amy into believing she can escape after thirty six years imprisonment, so she'll help him save the younger Amy from being imprisoned and thus becoming her in the first place. He's lying - the paradox cannot be maintained and one Amy must die. When she attempts a Meadow Run towards him, he slams the TARDIS doors closed, leaving her to die. And then he gives the gun for Rory to shoot with a Sadistic Choice: Rory must pick which Amy he wants to save.
  • Jack Harkness on Torchwood has taken up this role quite a few times, starting with giving a child to evil fairies to keep them from murdering innocents in "Small Worlds" and going up to sacrificing his own grandson in order to save millions of other children in Children of Earth.
  • Happens at least twice in Stargate SG-1. Both times, it's a member of SG-1 killing someone dear to Daniel and explaining "I Did What I Had to Do".
    • In the first episode of Stargate Atlantis, Shepherd has to kill his CO after the latter has the life sucked out of him by a Wraith.
  • Babylon 5 is full of this. Then again, every race and every individual in Babspace is a Magnificent Bastard—even the heroes are like this at times.
  • More like "Shoot the Werewolf" in Supernatural's "Heart". Madison is a sweet, engaging Girl of the Week but also a danger to herself and everyone around her. She asks Sam (who's slightly in love) to do it as he's the only one she trusts. Dean offers to do it but instead we hear a shot offscreen and end on Dean looking miserable and flinching.
    • This trope is pretty much Sam's character arc for season 4. Even with how badly it turned out, his intentions were good.
  • Lost: Eko shoots a man to keep his little brother from having to do so.
    • Later, a flashback shows Sayid killing a chicken on his father's order after his older brother refuses to do so.
    • And let's not forget the time Sayid shot 12-year-old Ben Linus to try and avert all kinds of bad stuff in the future.
  • Played with in the Bones episode "The Man in the Cell". Bad guy Epps goes over the balcony rail, Booth lunges and catches his wrist, there's a long moment (and some really creepy dialogue from Epps)... and then Epps is street pizza. Did Booth let go or not? This turns into a sub-arc over the next few episodes.
  • Terminator: The Sarah Connor Chronicles finds a new dog to shoot in virtually every episode (as could be expected, given the consequences of failure and the presence of an emotionless android and a paranoid future soldier in the regular cast). For instance, in an early episode, the benign terminator Cameron prevents John from saving a suicidal girl, reasoning that he could draw attention to himself and risk getting exposed and drawing the attention of other terminators. The biggest example is Andy Good, an innocent computer engineer who will one day invent SkyNet, who literally gets shot (though Sarah's pretty upset about it).
    • In the episode "The Brothers of Nablus," Cameron guns down three thieves who stole from their house, simply because they knew where the Connors lived. Sarah spares the last robber, who was hiding in the bathroom. Cromartie eventually comes along and susses the location of the Connor's house from him.
  • In one Blake's 7 episode, Vila orders a pro-Federation surgeon to operate on a fellow rebel at gunpoint, then says that Blake isn't the sort of person to do this. Then a few minutes later, Blake subverts this trope by threatening to cripple the surgeon's hands if he delays any longer.
  • There's an episode of Pie in the Sky where WPC Cambridge arrests an old police friend of Crabbe who's guilty of taking a bribe, to spare Crabbe from having to do so.
  • Star Trek: Voyager: In "Prime Factors", Voyager's crew come across a race of aliens who have the technology to get them home, but who refuse to help them. A faction within their society agrees to covertly give them the technology in exchange for Voyager's library (stories being used as currency). However the transaction is illegal and Janeway refuses on principle. Some of the more militant crewmembers decide otherwise, only to be busted by Security Chief Tuvok, who then proceeds to make the exchange himself.

Janeway: I don't even know where to start. I want you to explain to me how you, of all people, could be involved in this.
Tuvok: It is quite simple, Captain. You have made it clear on many occasions that your highest goal for the crew is to get them home. But in this instance, your standards would not allow you to violate Sikaran law. Someone had to spare you the ethical dilemma. I was the logical choice, and so I chose to act.

  • Lionel and Lex Luthor have both done this at some point during Smallville although in the most iconic cases of both, they were protecting someone else.
    • Lana Lang, Pete Ross, and Oliver Queen also used this ideology as justification for attacking Lex with lethal intent while under the influence of mind-altering substances. It seemed like this was the case for Kara Kent as well, but that was simply Brainiac in disguise.
  • In the Burn Notice second season finale, Michael has to kill Victor. It's partly a Mercy Kill, since Victor says that the people who're after them will take him apart if they get him, but it's mostly just an expedient move for Michael in order to get closer to the people who burned him. Considering Victor was trying to kill Michael up until about halfway through this episode, it's one hell of a Tear Jerker. Especially since the good guys have gone out of their way to avoid directly killing anyone after ten minutes into the first episode.
    • And in the third season episode "The Long Way Back", Michael shoots his "partner" Strickler, upon finding out that he had arranged for Fiona to be kidnapped and handed over to any one of the various people who wanted her dead, simply because she was a potential red flag in Michael's file. Of course, Strickler had already pulled a gun on him at that point, and was not particularly inclined to let Michael do anything to prevent the plan from going through.
  • Gibbs shooting through Agent Michelle Lee to take out the Weatherman in NCIS.
    • And she asked him to do it! Complete Tear Jerker, right there.
  • Season 2 of Ashes to Ashes sees Gene Hunt literally shoot the dog.
  • Mal of Firefly is the rare lead character who never needs a side character to shoot the dog for him. He's more than willing to kill someone to protect his crew, and he does it on multiple occasions, even when killing them isn't strictly necessary.
    • In regards to the following three examples, it should probably be said that every single time Mal Shoots The Dog he is doing so because his patience level has reached Zero. Each time you can almost hear him say; "I don't have time for your Húshuō bādào.".
    • In the pilot, he shoots Dobson (a federal agent) in the face without hesitation because Dobson was threatening River.
    • In The Train Job, he kicks the King Mook into Serenity's engines—literally shredding the man into a mist of blood—because he threatened to hunt them down over a deal gone bad.
    • In The Message, he shoots Tracy for trying to take Kaylee hostage, when a simple explanation of the situation would have solved everything. But would Tracy have listened?
    • The culmination of Mal's "Shoot the Dog for the crew" mentality is shown in Ariel where he fully intends to space one of his own crew for trying to sell out two others for reward money.
  • House had its doctors treat an Idi Amin-analogue called Dbala. Cameron says repeatedly that she hopes he dies, and even makes moves toward convincing his second-in-command to seize power by killing him, but still treats him as best she can. Then her husband Chase instinctively calls out a warning that thwarts an assassin. Later, he hears the assassin's backstory (and some of the dictator's genocidal rant), and decides he can't live with having saved this monster's life, so he fakes a test result, deliberately causing the dictator's death, which eventually causes Cameron to leave him and PPTH.
  • Farscape has Crais offering to execute Aeryn's mother (who was sent to hunt them down and kill them) after they capture her so Aeryn doesn't have to witness it. He doesn't actually 'shoot the dog', he fakes it and offers a proposal to Aeryn's mom where she returns to the Peacekeepers and says the job is done in exchange for her life. Technically averted...
    • No, technically doubly subverted. In a later episode, Crais DOES shoot Aeryn's mother to save Aeryn's life. Which is exactly the kinda material this trope is made of.
  • The West Wing ends season 3 with Bartlet reluctantly ordering the assassination of terrorist leader and foreign diplomat Abdul Shareef. Bartlet sees this as an absolute wrong, but flawed evidence gathering prevents them from putting him on trial, and Leo convinces him that it's the only way to prevent future terrorist attacks.
  • In the Merlin-1998 series, Merlin helps Uther rape Igraine by deceit, reasoning that it will stop the war, save many lives, and result in Arthur's birth.
    • In the new BBC Merlin, Merlin is forced to poison Morgana, who he has been lying to about her magic and hiding his own from, because she is the vessel for a curse that has caused all of Camelot to fall into a sleep they cannot awaken from. Admittedly, his hand was forced by Kilgharrah the dragon and Morgause only made things worse, but up until that point, he had viewed Morgana as a great friend and there was even a little bit of romance between them. He also betrayed the location of a Druid camp that he'd led Morgana to in hopes that she would learn more about her magic because Uther was hunting down innocent people and killing them to find her. This also kickstarted Mordred's hatred of Merlin.
  • John Watson in Sherlock shoots the murderer in the first episode to stop Sherlock from giving into his ego and eating a pill that has a 50/50 chance of killing him.
  • In the second Star Trek: The Original Series pilot "Where No Man Has Gone Before", Spock recommends that Gary Mitchell be killed before his growing power gets completely out of hand. Kirk initially rejects the suggestion in favor of merely marooning Mitchell, but finally realizes that he has no choice (and almost gets killed himself because he hesitates the first time he has an opportunity to go through with it).
  • Done straight in The Wire Season Three where Cheese shoots his dog and the police mistake it as code and question him if he killed any of the murders that have been happening.
  • In Breaking Bad, Jesse is forced to kill Gail in order to prevent Walter's execution. When he tries to talk about his reaction to the incident at rehab, he even states that he was forced to put down a dog. The episode in question is even called "Problem Dog", which is an allusion to this trope.

Professional Wrestling

  • In 2008, Batista confronted Shawn Michaels for doing this to Ric Flair and ending his career. Old Yeller was referenced leading up to the friendly match at Wrestlemania 24, but - as was referenced in the color commentary for the match itself - it was rabies, not age, that forced the main character to kill the dog. Still, the match was presented as Shawn knowing full well that Flair was too old to wrestle any more and that he was going to lose to someone soon - all Michaels could do was fulfill his friend's wishes and be the one to end his career.
    • It's implied that Batista was jealous, because Flair asked Michaels and not him.
  • Shawn Michaels and Vince McMahon's actions in the Montreal Screwjob.

Tabletop Games

  • Some argue that Commissars from Warhammer 40,000 are justified in shooting their men as maintaining unit cohesiveness for the cost of a few men is preferable to having many more die in the chaos of a general rout.
    • And, of course, the Imperium regularly Blows Up The Planet The Dog Was Living On in response to the worst outbreaks of heresy, daemon invasions, or alien threats. Billions are killed, but the alternative is generally much, much worse.
    • The number of times preventative measures such as Exterminatus are justified are balanced by the equal number of times in which they are not, but are used anyway because the people in power are deranged lunatics like the Monodominants. It is a rather grim setting after all.
      • All instances of Exterminatus are put under Inquisitorial review. If insufficient justification is found, the person who ordered it is sentenced to immediate execution, or to be killed on sight if they have already fled. Also, Exterminatus is not used nearly as often as certain parts of the fandom make it seem. Exterminatus being Flanderized into something the Imperium does if someone on a planet sneezes and it sounds vaguely like "Chaos!" is pure Fanon.
    • This is of course based on the real life way old fashioned armies operated. When a military unit (UK anyway) forms up to do drill, the NCOs are at the back of the formation and march behind the unit. They were originally there to shoot soldiers who ran from the enemy, as formation drill was originally about standing up with no cover in massed ranks and shooting at each other. The idea was that if you stand there and take the fire, there's a pretty good chance you'll be shot, but if you run the Sergeant will definitely get you.
      • In many countries desertion in the face of the enemy (as opposed to going AWOL) holds the death penalty if convicted by a Court Martial.
      • Including the US, though rarely invoked nowadays.
  • In Legend of the Five Rings, the Scorpion clan's 'hat' is that they exist solely to shoot the necessary dogs. The Scorpion, despite being traitorous bastards, are extremely loyal to the Emperor, and people who are worthy friends. Make sure you are one of those two, and preferably both.
    • A story explaining them: An author asks, in jest, each clan what the most important virtue is. Each clan picks one, and the Scorpions pick loyalty, while the Lions pick honor. The other clans laugh at the Scorpion talking of Loyalty, since they are traitorous bastards. The Scorpion proposes that each Daimyo will call his greatest warrior in, and give him a task. The one whose warrior does not hesitate, loses. The others are suspicious, but he talks them into it, offering to demonstrate the task first. He calls his warrior in, stares at the author, and gives her a look that says, "You know what I am about to do." He then says his command. "Kill me." Without hesitation, the Scorpion Warrior kills his Daimyo, then draws a knife and commits seppuku. Everyone else can only stare in awe.
  • The titular Nobles of Nobilis, who have transcended human morality anyway, do some bad, bad things in their Forever War against the Omnicidal Maniac Excrucians.
  • One bit of flavour in Eclipse Phase is a message from a Firewall veteran telling you how much of your career will consist of this and how shitty you will feel afterwards. One of the examples given involves a child infected with The Virus, and a handy airlock.


  • In Philoctetes, after spending ten years away from home caught in a war with heavy casualties, it's reasonable that if Odysseus knew of a way to end it soon and with Greek victory, he would pursue that course. That course requires bringing a crippled man he had personally wronged and left alone on a Deserted Island for years back to the war front. He is pragmatic in trying this first by deceit and then by force, because the man would never agree, but it's not very flattering for Odysseus.

Video Games

  • During the Arrival DLC mission in Mass Effect 2, Shepard learns that the Reaper invasion is imminent, and s/he needs to buy the Alliance and Council time for humanity and its allies to have a hope of surviving. To slow the Reapers, Alliance operatives have rigged an asteroid to ram a Mass Relay, destroying it and forcing the Reapers to travel for months or years to get to the next one. However, the destruction of the Mass Relay will inevitably obliterate the entire system, which contains a Batarian mining colony with a population of about 300,000. In addition, the Alliance is likely to take the heat politically, since the Batarians recently caught Alliance personnel poking around their system. With only hours to spare before the titular arrival and no other options, Shepard presses the button.
    • This also has the potential of occurring in several of the loyalty missions—notably Mordin and Miranda's—however, in those instances, Shepard can persuade them not to do it.
  • Attempted in Devil May Cry 4. Dante's dropping into a meeting of the Order of the Sword and putting a round through the head of their leader Sanctus was meant to prevent the Big Bad from carrying out his nefarious plan. Unfortunately, that wasn't good enough, as Sanctus got better.
  • The Elder Scrolls IV: Oblivion loves this trope. For the Dark Brotherhood, there's the player killing everyone in the Cheydinhal base because a traitor might be there. He isn't. Then in the expansion pack, this is how One of the two dukes (so the player can replace them) and Sheogorath (due to an involuntary Face Heel Turn) die.
  • In Tales of Vesperia, Yuri is almost defined by this trope. Near the end of the first arc, he murders Ragou in cold blood and tosses his body into the river, because Ragou was escaping justice for horrendous crimes. Later, he repeats it with Cumore.
    • He also does it literally in the prequel movie, when Repede's father Lambert is possessed by a monster, forcing Yuri to kill him.
  • In the infamous "Mind of Steel" 'bad' end (#30) in Fate Stay Night, having been told that Sakura, the girl he loves, will go insane through mana deprivation and kill people, Shirou decides to follow his father's footsteps by freezing his emotions in order to kill Sakura and (once he learns the true nature of the Grail) coldly win the Grail War—whatever it takes—for the sake of the greater good. As Kotomine says, now that he has turned his mind to steel, he is his father, and his success is guaranteed.
    • Also, killing Saber on the same route. Yes, it avoids a horrific Bad End, but at the time you have no way of knowing that, so choosing that option on your first playthrough without having read a walkthrough has many aspects of this.
  • In Jade Empire, towards the end of the game, you learn the secret of how the Emperor created Death's Hand and that you can use the same technique to bind him to you instead. After learning this, you're lectured on how this is pretty much the worse thing you can do to a person. You can still choose to do it, of course, and given how powerful a warrior Death's Hand is, it's pretty tempting. It really stops having the "justifiable" credentials when you then have to bind your fellow party members if you want to keep him over their objections. From the character's point of view, it's easy to see how this might look like the only way to win, but really...
  • In Halo 3, Sgt Johnson says Keyes must shoot him and herself to prevent themselves from being used to activate the Halos. However, it turns into a Kick the Dog when Truth intervenes and kills Keyes himself. Why Don't You Just Shoot Him? Truth that is. He didn't appear to have a shield ala Regret.
    • A more tragic example happened to her father in the first game. He was turned into a Flood Proto-Gravemind, and the Chief had to kill him to prevent the Flood from taking over.
  • Georg Prime in Suikoden V does this to Queen Arshtat and becomes a Hero with Bad Publicity as a result.
  • In Splinter Cell: Double Agent, one of your earlier "karma choices" is to decide whether to shoot the pilot of the helicopter that the terrorist organization hijacked, as an act of loyalty to the terrorists. If Sam decides to instead hesitate and stay loyal to the government, Sam's only friend in the organization does it instead in a last-minute decision to save Sam's face.
    • Said choice is then taken Up to Eleven when Sam is made to choose between killing Lambert or killing Jamie; choosing the former option secures Sam's cover long enough to kill the villain and save the day with ease, whilst choosing the latter serves to risk the entire mission as of then, as well as thousands of lives just to maintain his moral code.
      • The above example is made even worse when Word of God revealed in Conviction that not only Sam killing Lambert is canon, but that Lambert did pretty much everything in Double Agent to protect Sam's daughter, thus only adding to the guilt of killing a friend on a whim.
  • In EverQuest II, if the PC wishes to become a citizen of an evil-aligned city called Freeport, they must follow a quest line where they earn the trust and love of a canine companion before being ordered to kill it.
  • In Fallout 3, there are many different times this can happen. For instance, putting the Modified FEV in Project Purity to kill anyone or anything that is mutated. Another is in The Pitt, to kidnap (and probably doom) the baby so that the slaves can be free and find a cure faster to the Trog condition.
    • Both instances are cases of Chaotic Stupid instead of Shoot the Dog: If you think the matter through, putting FEV into the water will kill EVERY LIVING THING EVERYWHERE (Apocalypse How Class 5) eventually. This is a biological weapon here, a class of weapons notoriously unreliable, particularly in FEV's case. All life mutates. What's to stop it killing later mutations? What's to stop it from killing mutations caused by the still existing radiation? As for the Trog Cure... What scientific training do Wernher and Midea have?
    • Another example from Fallout 3: the player comes across a computer simulation run by one Stanislaus Braun, who has been torturing its inhabitants for the past two hundred years. The action which nets the most karma? Activating a fail-safe which calls in simulated Chinese soldiers who arrive and kill everyone.
    • A more literal example: There is a glitch involving the follower Dogmeat (a dog) and the perk "Puppies!", which you get from Broken Steel. If you have the perk and Dogmeat dies, a new dog that replaces Dogmeat will show up. If you kill Dogmeat, recruit a follower, recruit the new dog, and then kill the new dog (repeating the process), you can obtain every follower in the game (normally, you are only allowed one follower and Dogmeat). Literally, you are shooting the dog for the purpose of gaining a relative army of followers.
  • In StarCraft, Tassadar is forced to burn and sterilize the Terran planets that have been infested with Zerg, because it is the most effective way to kill the Zerg. After a while, Tassadar refuses to shoot any more dogs and disobeys his orders.
    • It's worth noting that, whether true or not, this is also Arcturus Mengsk's stated reason for pretty much everything he does.
  • Emerl. That is all.
  • Solar Boy Django, the protagonist of Boktai has been forced to kill off, or very nearly do so, a member of his immediate family during each of his series three games after they are enslaved by the forces of darkness. The only thing that makes it slightly easier (or even worse) for him is that they beg him to do so.
  • Zero had to make this decision at the end of Mega Man Zero 4. Confronted with the monster that was Dr. Weil, the latter boasts how a hero like Zero would never bring himself up to kill a human like Weil, or else he would forever be branded a Maverick. Fortunately, Zero doesn't care.—An unfortunate mistake Weil has made, since Zero was not created according to the Three Laws of Robotics anyway.
  • Throughout Metroid Prime 3: Corruption, Samus is forced to fight and kill Rundas, Ghor and Gandrayda in order to save them, in a manner of speaking, from their total Phazon corruption. Possibly doubles into a Kick the Dog moment immediately afterwards, as an incorporeal Dark Samus appears and absorbs their bodies into its own.
  • While you can easily be a Messianic Archetype in most of Dragon Age, when it comes to the dwarven city of Orzammar, if you attempt to give it at least a somewhat happy ending in the epilogue, you will be forced to Shoot the Dog repeatedly because apparently, in dwarven society, No Good Deed Goes Unpunished. Examples include: A dwarven girl wishes to study in the Circle of Magi. Seems innocent enough, but helping her may eventually cause the Chantry to start an Exalted March against Orzammar for harboring apostates, so you'll have to shoot her dream down. The same situation will occur in the epilogue when you help an Andrastian priest with his simple request to build a local Chantry church, so you'll have to deny him all help as well. Finally, during the main quest, you'll be forced to work with the Magnificent Bastard Bhelen who killed his eldest brother Trian and let the Dwarf Noble PC take the blame, causing him to become exiled; rather than the Reasonable Authority Figure Lord Harrowmont. Because once made king, Harrowmont will fall ill, Orzammar will close itself off from the world and fall into political chaos. But if Bhelen becomes king, he becomes a benevolent dictator who abolishes many of the restrictive dwarven policies (like the Caste System) and opens up Orzammar to the world.
    • Actually, the Exalted March only starts if you help the Brother trying to spread the Chantry teachings; however, the epilogue is notoriously buggy, so you might get that ending anyway.
  • In Metal Gear Solid 3: Snake Eater, Snake's ultimate mission is to eliminate his old mentor, The Boss, in order to avert a nuclear war. At the very end, she lays there dying, and orders him to fire the bullet that will end her life. As if that wasn't heartbreaking enough, the game forces you to pull the trigger yourself.
  • In Kingdom Hearts: Birth By Sleep, Master Xehanort's plan to restart the Great Keyblade War, which would devastate and reshape the universe at large, hinges around Ven, one of Master Eraqus's students, and Vanitas. When Master Eraqus realises just how close Xehanort is to achieving his goal, he's willing to kill Ventus - except Xehanort sees this coming and arranges for Terra to catch him in the act.
  • In Lusternia, the Vernal Gods use a child marked as food for Muud as bait to capture him, and as a living seal to keep him permanently trapped. To ensure she never commits suicide, thus freeing him, they trap her in a Lotus Eater Machine.

"This is a terrible thing we do," whispers Tzaraziko. "It will be forever remembered as our greatest crime."
"There's no other choice," says Urlach, and none are left to argue.
Summoning their magics, the shining ones circle around the child and Muud. The child screams as Muud begins sinking into the swamp, pulling the child with him. Steam rises up around them, thick and putrid, billowing in the air like cancerous clouds. Slowly, they sink deeper and deeper into the ground and away from the world above - where it will be forever silent and dark.

  • Poor Devlin McCormack in The Orion Conspiracy. He had to shoot a number of dogs. First he had to destroy a ship with Rowland in it. He had to explain to Meyer that the ship contained cocoons that would have hatched into xenomorphs disguised as humans. He could not afford to let such deadly creatures end up on Earth or spreading anywhere else. Also, he points out that the xenomorphs on the ship would have killed Rowland anyway. Devlin did what he had to do. However, that is nothing compared to what happens later. Ward ends up going berserk, and Devlin finds him in a corridor with Ramen and Brooks. He tried to negotiate with Ward, but Brooks jumps Ward, resulting in the deaths of Ward and Brooks, as well as heavy machinery falling on Ramen, pinning her to the floor. Not only that, but the corridor gets damaged to the point of being in danger of depressurizing shortly. Chandra appears and decides that he loves Ramen enough to stay and die with her. Devlin ends up having to seal off the doors to the corridor on both sides. Yep, four people end up dead...and Devlin feels horrible about it.
  • The SAS and TF 141 spend a lot of time shooting the dogs in Modern Warfare. Especially Captain Price.
  • In Dark Souls, the Chosen Undead will have no choice but to kill Gwyn, who is arguably one of the most noble characters in the game, if there is to be any hope for the future.
  • In Planescape: Torment, this is pretty much the reason for everything the Practical Incarnation has done. He may be an arrogant and manipulative Complete Monster, but the thing is, if he hadn't done these things, you would have never been able to regain your memories and find the Transcendent One
  • In the... Unfortunate Soulstorm expansion to Dawn of War the command unit for the Sisters of Battle has the quote "Thou shalt not! I shall!" Literally stating "I'm about to do some heinous things in the defense of the Imperium." She sounds a little too happy about it, though...

Web Comics

  • In The Wotch, Miranda offs Natasha Dahlet.
  • There was debate among the Schlock Mercenary fandom about whether Petey's making the Tricameral Assembly into an object lesson in the necessity of a healthy defense budget in the Teraport age by vaporizing them from orbit was a Shoot the Dog moment or falling through the Moral Event Horizon... However, the revelation that the "vaporizing" was just a show to scare the other governments into compliance, and that he'd merely teleported them away to draft them into his attempt to save the Andromeda Galaxy -- and the universe in general -- from hostile Dark Matter aliens made it pretty clear it's the former.
    • However, at another point he revealed that he was willing to perform mindrips if necessary in order to gather information for said war—which is the quite illegal equivalent of torturing information out of someone which is guaranteed to be fatal.
  • In The Order of the Stick, Lord Kubota surrenders to avoid being killed, and once captured, proceeds to outline his plan to escape justice by manipulating the upcoming trial to an enraged Elan, who can't do anything about it. Vaarsuvius, however, overhears, and takes measures to eliminate the obviously still dangerous threat because Elan can't.
    • However, this borders on a cold blooded murder, given that the reasons V shot Kubota were largely based on overhearing a few words and being Dangerously Genre Savvy, rather than any true evidence.
      • It's a world where the leader of the party once interrupted a blacksmith explaining a magic sword by telling her she could just use the game mechanic terms. Being Dangerously Genre Savvy is evidence.
  • Baron Wulfenbach in Girl Genius apparently has to do this a lot. At one point the heroine has to be talked into leaving a situation for him to deal with because they know he'll do it. (The fact that as the ruler of most of Europe he's much better equipped to handle it probably factored in as well, of course.)
  • In Dominic Deegan, Rilian the First Necromancer has taken the role of Dog Shooter several times, and is always ready to do so again. Rilian has killed Acibek on Acibek's request to seal the Storm of Souls the first time. He later killed the first Sylvan Oracle to deal with the Storm a second time. He's also let the Deegan's worst enemy threaten Dominic and his brothers as children, because he knew their mother would kill her to protect them. Later yet, he arranged for a "test" of Dominic and Luna, to see if Dominic was ready to Mindbreak; since Mindbreak is essentially a psychic Superpower Meltdown, it is a very bad thing. If Dominic failed any of the tests, Rilian was ready to kill him. Rilian noted once that his role requires him to be cold.
    • Of course, immediately afterwards, it was revealed that Rilian was able to be his old jolly self around Dominic during the test, making the whole scene a rare case of Petting The Dog while holding a gun behind your back.
      • In a twist, while unaware of Rilian's Xanatos Gambit, Dominic did check his future if he didn't go on the trip—definite Mindbreak and the mass murder of anyone within range—which, given Dominic is one of the more powerful psychics in his universe, is pretty darned big. All this with the normal caveats about how visions, by definition, show futures that can be changed, however.
  • In a surprisingly touching moment for Looking for Group, Cale'Anon on his quest to redeem his evil race through personal heroism, is railroaded by Forces Beyond His Control to murder a child in order to save the future. Of course, the child turned out to be the Arch-Mage in disguise (and he got better as soon as they left), so it was actually a Secret Test of Character.
  • In Harkovast, Quinn-Tain breaks Brightleaf's neck because he considers after she has already been disarmed and is helpless. He considers this to be essential to serve as a warning to others. This gets a furious reaction from Scatterpod [dead link]. After she has gone, Quinn-Tain expresses regret [dead link], but still considers his actions necessary evils.
  • The Wild Zones of Zombie Ranch are populated with "practical sorts" who either lived through the Zombie Apocalypse or grew up knowing that zed bites are best dealt with quickly and with a minimum of fuss. The law's even on your side, as discussed here.

Web Original

  • Survival of the Fittest character Adam Dodd was forced to euthanise his friend Marcus Roddy, as he had fallen into a coma. Most of the rest of his group didn't agree with the action, but Adam pointed out that had they left him catatonic, somebody else would have just come along and done the same, or he would have just been eaten by animals or some equally gruesome fate.
  • The Pacifist path of the webgame Pillage The Village is pretty based to the the more ethical of two evil' logic of this trope.
  • Happens a lot—meaning a lot—in Shadow Unit; the most memorable instance involved an actual dog, which (hidden for squick) a gamma nicknamed "Mrs. Chow" had started eating. Alive. From the middle.

Western Animation

  • In The Penguins of Madagascar episode "Lost Treasure Of The Golden Squirrel", Skipper comments that money can't buy honour or respect - just as he looks into the Eyes of the Squirrel and sees himself buying an arsenal of high-grade military weapons to blow up hippies with as his greatest desire.
  • Happens several times in Justice League and Justice League Unlimited. These unpleasant-but-necessary duties seem to fall on Shayera "Hawkgirl" Hol's shoulders quite frequently:
    • In "The Savage Time", in the middle of a retreat, Green Lantern tells Hawkgirl to leave him behind so she can carry wounded soldiers out in his place. She does so without argument.
    • In "Starcrossed", she helps the Thanagarian invasion force defeat the League and conquer the Earth, because she believed the occupation of Earth was necessary to defeat the Gordanians, which was in the best interests of both her home planet Thanagar and Earth. (Though she draws the line at destroying Earth to save Thanagar, and she turns on her brethren upon discovering that they intend to do exactly that.)
    • In "Wake the Dead" Solomon Grundy gets reanimated through Chaos Magic as a raging, mindless zombie, and the only merciful option is to kill him (again):

Dr. Fate: (to Shayera) Your mace may be the only thing that can give the creature peace.
Green Lantern: What are you saying?
Shayera: Your favorite movie is Old Yeller, you know exactly what he's saying.

    • The Question gets in on the act in "Question Authority". He struggles for months about how to prevent the events that led, in an Alternate Universe, to the Justice League becoming fascist rulers of the world—events that centered around Superman murdering Lex Luthor. Question's solution: go kill Lex himself (using his tie). After all, Supes is the ultimate good guy, and Question's a confirmed loony conspiracy nut. (Unfortunately, the real conspiracy Question uncovered in the process of confronting Lex was a bit more than he could handle.)
  • Ben 10: In the episode "Framed," Ben and his Evil Counterpart Kevin 11 are dueling on a bridge, surrounded by an army led by Lieutenant Steele, an Inspector Javert alien hunter, whom Ben just stopped Kevin from killing. After Ben wins and spares Kevin, he ends up dangling from the bridge.

Kevin: You know why you can't beat me? Cause you're a good guy, and good guys never have the guts to finish guys like me!
Steele: But I do. (orders his men to shoot Kevin down)


  • In A World Gone Mad, Jack Bauer-esque Anti-Hero Agent Griffin's whole philosophy is that someone like him has to do horrible things in order to protect the naive, peace-loving citizens who don't even know he exists. The joke is that he's horribly incompetent. So, not only does he kill civilians, cause the death of innocents, double-cross his own allies, and torture prisoners out of necessity, he often ends up killing, double-crossing, or torturing the wrong civilians, innocents, allies, or prisoners who have absolutely nothing to do with whatever evil plot he's trying to stop. It helps that he's a Sociopathic Hero and Karma Houdini.
  • A classic cover for the National Lampoon magazine features a gun being held to the head of a dog with the warning "If You Don't Buy This Magazine, We'll Kill This Dog". At the time the magazine was struggling, so the cover was intentionally controversial to inspire interest.
  • Inverted in this strip of The Far Side, where a guy shoots a dog... out of a gun.

Real Life

  • George Washington (hero number one in the U.S.A) has a Shoot the Dog episode among his many awesome moments. With the revolution in danger of falling apart due to the demoralizing effect of endless military defeats, Washington broke the traditional Christmas truce to lead troops across the Delaware River and sneak attack a group of enemy mercenaries. The resulting lopsided victory had a crucial psychological effect.
  • The British sneak-attack on the French fleet in 1940. Only weeks before, the French had been Britain's allies, and now Germany had control of their own navy, the Italian navy, and the French navy while half of Britain's forces were holding out against the Japanese. Britain's attack on the French navy cost over 1,300 French lives, and quite possibly (along with the Battle of Britain) prevented the Germans from invading Great Britain proper.
    • It wasn't a sneak attack - that would have been unsporting. The French were handed an ultimatum: either join the Royal Navy, sail to bases in the French Empire or neutral countries or face destruction. The admiral in command refused to disobey his superiors, however.
  • The atomic bombings of Hiroshima and Nagasaki remain controversial to this day, but those who defend them claim that, despite the horrific damage and cost of life, they prevented a longer and inevitably more bloody invasion of Japan. At the very least, they unambiguously saved the lives of almost every Allied POW being held by Japan. Their captors had orders to kill them if it was announced the Allies were actually invading Japan.
  • A more literal example caused the suppressed version of the Smith & Wesson Model 39 pistol to be called a "Hush Puppy." Its purpose was for special forces teams to covertly eliminate sentry dogs and guards without alerting the main target. There is also the more openly marketed "Velo-dog" revolver, specifically developed for early cyclists to defend themselves from dogs.
  • Another thing pretty close to literal is modern science's experiments on various animals, including dogs, for the sake of medical research. Whether you consider it justified or not, the reality is, many of the medical procedures that save lives today came about because of experiments on animals.
  1. with non-lethal ammo