When a character 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 and is the personification of this trope. 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 the Bad Guys Do the Dirty Work. One common way to show the emotional pain this causes is by showing the shooter Cradling Their Kill.
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 But More So (the closest thing to that would be Moral Event Horizon); 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 — such as putting down the old family pet after it's contracted rabies. (Bad Dreams are far more likely after shooting the dog than after kicking it.) Senseless shooting of a dog would actually fall under Kick the Dog or Moral Event Horizon. 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, Well-Intentioned Extremist, Knight Templar, The Unfettered, Cruel to Be Kind. If the act is presented as wrong it may come across as Designated Evil. The version where a bad guy does this for a hero is Bad Guys Do the Dirty Work.
- 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. 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.
- Everything Nick Fury does in the Marvel Universe falls into this category.
- In the fourth issue of Supergirl: Cosmic Adventures in the 8th Grade, Streaky the Supercat appears to be de-stabilizing a reactor core to blow the school up, so Lena decides to shoot him. However Supergirl stops her.
Supergirl: You were trying to shoot the cat!
Lena: I was stopping the cat from destroying us all!
- In Ultimate Marvel, dog-shooting is a national sport. Except for Ultimate Spider-Man; 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.
- 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.
- Wolverine was recruited into the New Avengers specifically so that they'd have someone willing to shoot the dog on the team. With Captain America, Spider-Man, Luke Cage, and Iron Man on the team at the time, the argument was that they needed a dog-shooter for those situations when a hard morale choice might be necessary.
- In The Walking Dead, one of the children 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" and his father Wouldn't Hurt a Child.
- 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.
- John Stewart has become kind of a magnet for this sort of thing lately, as he also killed a fellow lantern who had broken under torture and was about to give up the access codes to Oa.
- 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.
- Some Justice League members actually brainwashed the dog. Twice. They erased Dr. Light's memory, and when Batman found out about it, they did the same to him..
- Also, Wonder Woman snapping Maxwell Lord's neck, in order to break his mind control over Superman. The latter wasn't too happy when he found out.
- In Uncanny X-Force, it is revealed that a resurrected Apocalypse will bring about the Age of Apocalypse. To prevent this, X-Force, an already morally ambiguous team that's entire purpose is to shoot the dog, decides to kill Apocalypse. However, it's revealed that Apocalypse is actually a child, who is still innocent. The team is split, with Angel the most adamant about killing Kid Apocalypse, saying that Kid Apocalypse won't be able to control his nature, and that doing this will save millions of lives. However, he stops himself, and the team decide to take Kid Apocalypse back for training. Then Fantomex shoots him in the head. Later on, Deadpool of all people is the one to call the team out on this, and Wolverine says it was the right thing to do, and that sparing him was just a moment of weakness. Fantomex himself secretly cloned Kid Apocalypse.
- In the Marvel UK event Revolutionary War, Mephisto has brainwashed the hero Killpower into leading a demonic invasion of Britain for him. In the final issue, his former partner Motormouth manages to re-access his heroic personality, who begs her to kill him before Mephisto reasserts his control. Motormouth refuses, as she's a hero, but Colonel Liger of the Warheads, Major Hauer of the Supersoldiers, and Death's Head I and II point out that they are most certainly not heroes and empty copious amounts of lead into him.
- In one arc of The Authority, a woman comes to the team claiming to be three-year-old Jenny Quantum's mother. In fact, it turns out she's Jenny's twin sister, Jenny Fractal, with all the same reality-warping powers, but absolutely insane because she was kidnapped and brainwashed by a government conspiracy. Fractal kills Jenny and tears a hole in the fabric of reality that will destroy the world. The only way to stop her and save Jenny is for Midnighter to go back in time and murder Fractal as a helpless baby, just hoping he can tell the difference between her and his daughter. It works, but he was very reluctant to do it, and can barely stand to look at Jenny once it's over. He might be a textbook Sociopathic Hero, but that's a line even he feels rotten for crossing.
- The third volume of New Avengers revolves around whether or not The Illuminati (a secret group of some the world's most influential heroes, including Iron Man, Mr. Fantastic, Black Panther and Namor) are willing to shoot the dog. Shooting the dog, in their case, means potentially destroying an entire alternate version of the planet Earth due to a phenomenon known as "incursions." During an incursion, two universes clash, with their respective Earths being the collision point. If the two Earths collide, the universes are destroyed, so the only way to save both universes is to destroy one of the Earths. For the most part, the Illuminati avoid committing genocide because most of the alternate Earths end up being destroyed by people other than them, with the first case in which they had to choose the destruction of an Earth by themselves having said Earth devoid of life. When the time comes to choose to destroy an inhabited world, everyone but Namor decides it's not worth it, so he destroys the Earth himself, prompting the rest of the Illuminati to kick him out. Then, Namor assembles a group of villainous monsters to destroy the ensuing colliding Earths until the final incursion between the last two universes.
- In Absalom, Absalom and his men sometimes kill kittens to draw out vampires.
- In Warhammer 40,000 comic Bloodquest, Cloten and Lysander are forced to gun down civilians while masquerading as renegade marines, or they would risk blowing their coven. They are utterly disgusted by what they have to do, but given they found the civilians hiding while a Chaos invasion was going on and if they just left them to actual Chaos Marines to find them and the horrible things they would put the civilians through, it was just better to kill them as mercifully as possible.
- Beast Wars: Uprising is an extended deconstruction of this. In the Grey and Gray Morality of the Grand Uprising, many factions and characters are willing to Shoot The Dog if victory depends on it... a fact that does nothing but make the conflict even worse, as it pushes everybody else into increasingly extreme acts out of fear and desperation. Most notably, Lio Convoy's near-constant and ruthless dog-shooting not only leaves him overwrought with crippling guilt, but also pushes the Builders into unleashing the Vehicon plague, which quickly spirals out of control and threatens to destroy the entire planet. It's also clear that many of the crimes committed for the supposed "greater good" are actually done out of incompetence or self-gratification rather than intelligent pragmatism. In the end, the real heroes who save Cybertron end up being people like the Ex-Bots or Hot Rod, who refused to let the war corrupt them and did everything they could to find a better way. The Distant Finale shows that most of the dog-shooters get remembered as little more than idiots and bastards who almost got everyone killed.
- Raptors: Camilla kills a dog before murdering its owner, since he was part of the conspiracy she was opposed to.
- Better Angels has this as Shane Walsh's modus operandi, lightly contrasting the "Ricktatorship" that takes place in The Walking Dead show canon.
- Child of the Storm has Peter Wisdom a.k.a. Regulus Black, Director of MI13, whose willingness to do this is perhaps his defining trait. In the sequel, for instance, he makes it abundantly clear to Thor that he would personally shoot Harry, a fourteen-year-old boy, in the head if he proved to be a mortal threat to Britain — a genuine possibility, considering the fact that Harry's got a fragment of the Phoenix inside him, his body was used to conquer half a continent by the Red Room, and he's already gone Dark Phoenix once — and he thought that it was necessary (though he is aware that it would most likely just make things worse). He'd feel horrifically guilty for doing so, but he'd do it, and accept the retribution that came with it.
- Doctor Strange is also ruthlessly manipulative, coldly moving people around like chess pieces, and continually calculating the cost-benefit balance of each action in human and superhuman lives via his Time Stone boosted abilities as a Seer. As he puts it: "I do what I must, because the alternative would be worse."
- Night of the Shy: After Fluttershy is possessed by the Big Bad, Nightmare, the rest of the Mane Cast reluctantly discuss the possibility that if all else fails, they may have to kill Fluttershy in order to defeat Nightmare. Princess Luna actually attempts to do so during the Battle of Ponyville but is Out-Gambitted before she can strike the killing blow and is killed herself.
- In the Deliver Us From Evil Series, Smith kills his step-nephew (who was a nice guy) out of a desire for his brother's estate, infects Davey Wiggins and tortures Holmes for the heck of it. Creep. Luckily for Holmes, Watson kills Smith when he tortures Holmes with an inch of his life and gloats over the guy while he's dying. That proves that messing with a detective is NOT a smart or survivable idea in this fic.
- Turnabout Storm: Phoenix, in order to save Rainbow Dash from a guilty verdict by extending the trial one day to get more time to investigate, places suspicion of the murder over Fluttershy. To make matters worse, he gets berated constantly as he's doing this, and given the circumstances, he can't explain to them neither his reasoning behind this nor how much he hates himself for it.
- In the Pony POV Series, this is how the Alicorns and Draconnequi justify destroying the G3 world and triggering a Cosmic Retcon. If they hadn't, the errors in that world would have caused it to collapse anyway and destroy everything. At least their way allows the world to start over again; they even state they wouldn't be doing so if they had any other choice.
- Similarly, this is why, after the universe reboots, Destruction prevents the transition from G2 to G3 by basically nuking the planet at the critical moment. Sure, millions die and pony civilization collapses back into the Dark Ages, but if he hadn't, the Cosmic Retcon would have been rendered pointless.
- Pandora, the Draconequus of Imagination, had no choice to imprison her child (the entity that would eventually become General-Admiral Makarov) in her box after it went on a rampage and turned the Realm of Legends into its own twisted fairy tale, despite clearly not wanting to. Later on, she has to help Shining feed Makarov to the Blank Wolf to save the entire world, and more or less sees doing so as this trope.
- In Fractured, a Mass Effect/Star Wars/Borderlands crossover, Samantha Shepard experiences a Heroic B.S.O.D. that tilts her away from her usual paragon self, but in the sequel Origins, she has My God, What Have I Done? breakdown that makes her question why anyone else would keep her around. Others justify retaining Shepard (rather than imprisoning her for war crimes) based on She Did What She Had to Do. There are plenty of other morally-questionable actions throughout that may or may not have been justified In-Universe through I Did What I Had to Do but nonetheless qualify as shooting the dog:
- Moxxi gets Jackie drunk during a "therapy" session to keep her talking.
- Jackie deliberately allows an otherwise-innocent marine to be killed by defense systems in her family's Vaults, since him calling for help would lock everyone inside.
- Depending on one's point of view, the Republic Intelligence Service's attempts to deal with the Alien Invasion could qualify.
- Admiral Nimitz clearly does not like working with the Maliwans and Torgue who gleefully bombarded civilian worlds to punish Jakobs.
- The KOMBT School seems to qualify as a Boarding School of Horrors since severe injuries are considered par for the course in its more physical classes. Bacta takes most of the sting out, and is the given reason why such brutal training is even allowed in the first place.
- Keeping Sarah around after she killed millions to stop the Flood doesn't let the heroes sleep easy at night either.
- The Citadel Council, after being incompetent morons for most of the story, finally "do what is necessary"...by sentencing the entire Terminus to death in order to buy time for defenses to consolidate elsewhere. Surprise! It doesn't work.
- In Jewel of Darkness, Falcon convinces the Endless Council to send an assassin after Midnight in order to prevent Trigon from using her as his portal. The justification he gives is that as she's evil, she's more easily corruptible than other versions of Raven, which means that there's a greater chance she won't defeat Trigon, allowing him to conquer that universe, and later the whole multiverse. He presents this as the Lesser of Two Evils.
- Rise of the Galeforces: Violet feeds Ludlow to baby T. rexes. In front of everyone. Though to be fair, Adam did imply several times before that Ludlow thoroughly deserved it.
- The Powers of Harmony: When Cetus first reveals herself, Luna and Shining Armor try to kill her, despite the fact that she's possessing Rarity. Shining actually points out that everyone else will be upset with them, but Luna views it as a necessary evil.
- In the Teen Care Bears series the Care Bear Magi state that this is their purpose: they were created to take on the burdens and perform the actions that the main Care Bear Family cannot, specifically to kill threats to peace and caring that cannot be reasoned with. Their first major series of actions is to systematically kill every member of the Hunters, an organization that pathologically fears and attempts to destroy all forms of magic, as leaving them alive might cause most of humanity to turn on the Care Bears. In a later story, they seem determined to kill Fauna because she's been corrupted by No-Heart and might pose an unstoppable threat to everyone if she's left alive.
- In the Tamers Forever Series, we have Takeru's plan to allow Takato to die in order to prevent Daemon from acquiring the power of God.
- Fallen King has Joey throwing Ryou Bakura off the helicopter to his death.
"I'm protecting my friends," [Joey] replied. Though his voice was steady, his body trembled fiercely. Things had certainly changed. "He's not our friend."
- In Order In Chaos, a Centauri patrol destroys an Orieni explorer, and interrogates the survivors to find out how many other ships were with them before they lost contact. The Orieni ships had been infected by an horror who feeds on people's mind and reproduce by infecting those who escape alive, and they couldn't allow any of them to reach an inhabited planet.
- Mirror's Image: Queen Chrysalis was forced to let her first daughter die of starvation, rather than let the rest of her subjects die trying to feed her.
- One of the key factors that makes the Aftermath of the Games universe an AU is that Princess Twilight wasn't able to talk Starlight Glimmer down like she was able to do in canon. So she was forced to defeat her by retgoning the original by adopting her younger self from her Orphanage of Fear and taking her to the future. It's made perfectly clear that this really was the only choice Twilight had. Despite this, and her friends, brother, and fellow princesses assuring her that her decision was necessary to save Equestria, she's massively haunted by it. Especially since she thinks the Original Starlight set up her time traveling scheme as a Suicide by Cop gambit, not to mention how Twilight's fully aware of the possible consequences of rewriting part of the timeline.
- Integration has Celestia telling Twilight's friends that part of helping her rule will sometimes require making difficult decisions with harsh consequences. When they all show fear of doing this, Luna tells them that that's actually good, because hating the responsibility means not only will they'll be able to handle it better than most ponies, they'll truly manage to keep any decisions like that to an absolutely last resort.
- In Origin Story, there is Alex Harris's reluctant murder of Henry Peter Gyrich. Gyrich was going to keep coming after Alex and Louise, and it was inevitable that Louise would eventually get killed, as she already nearly had been during Bullseye's attack. To Alex, removing Gyrich from the equation was the only possible way to keep Louise safe. So she removed him.
- In the Cuphead fan comic from DeviantArt, "Cagney Is a Carnation" by fuyuflowga, Cagney Carnation has to become Necessarily Evil in order to get the sibling protagonists Cuphead and Mugman to battle him out for the Soul Contract, knowing that he'll at least be free from servitude to the Devil if he gets killed. During the battle, on discovering that Mugman must be so important to Cuphead, Cagney reaches a terrible, reluctant decision: he has to kill Mugman with his bare, thorny vines in an effort to spur his brother to avenge him and destroy Cagney for the contract. Needless to say, the ploy works (and the result just isn't pretty), although both Mugman and Cagney get better after a hard battle.
- 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. Vince and Shawn really did screw Bret Hart out of the WWF Championship, out of Vince's fear that Bret would appear on rival promotion WCW with the title, since Hart was about to leave the WWF and go work for WCW. Something similar had happened before where then-WWF Women's Champion Alundra Blaze dumped the Women's Championship belt into a garbage can on WCW's flagship program, Monday Nitro, and Vince didn't want the same thing to happen again. Hart refused to drop the title to Michaels, since the two had bad blood. Finally, at Survivor Series in 1997, as Michaels put Hart into Hart's own submission move, Vince called for the bell, costing Hart the match. Whether or not the real-life screwjob was justified or not is still a contentious issue among wrestling fans, even today.
- Warhammer 40,000:
- The Imperium of Man regularly Blows Up The Planet The Dog Was Living On in response to the worst outbreaks of heresy, daemonic incursions, or alien threats. Billions are killed, and the planet is rendered uninhabitable or destroyed, but the alternative is generally much, much worse. To enforce this trope, a special Inquisitorial group scrutinizes every use of Exterminatus: 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. (The meme of Exterminatus being performed by the Imperium because someone on a planet sneezes and it sounds vaguely like "Chaos!" is pure Fanon and/or Black Comedy.)
- The Commissars 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.
- 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.
- This was pretty much Urza's whole hat in the original storyline for Magic: The Gathering. He had several thousand years to prevent a Phyrexian Invasion on his home plane of Dominaria. In the end, he started wars, killed thousands, ruined other planes (particular Rath and Mercadia), betrayed the person who was the closest thing he'd ever had to a son, sacrificed the lives of half a dozen other pre-sundering Planeswalkers, and was himself destroyed. When the smoke cleared, Dominaria was badly damaged, but still standing, while Phyrexia was a ruined husk, its Machine-God destroyed in the process. Pity that it got better a few years down the line.
- Taken to the most agonizingly literal extreme in the Shadows Over Innistrad block. The archangel Avacyn has been driven insane by Nahiri's cryptoliths, and is killing the very humans she was crafted to protect. And the only one strong enough to stop her is Sorin Markov. For reference, Sorin created Avacyn, and she is probably the only thing in the countless universes he still loves.
- 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.
- In All My Sons, this is discussed when Chris is arguing with Ann about why he can't put his father in jail where he deserves to be. "We used to shoot a man who acted like a dog, but honor was real there, you were protecting something," Chris says. In this dog-eat-dog world, however, Chris doesn't see any sense in singling out his father for acting the way everyone else has to, even though "it just happened to kill a few people this time."
- Doing morally questionable things like sacrificing others' lives for the team's sake is a recurring theme in Zero Time Dilemma's Decision Game, but a major one occurs in the "Outbreak" fragment, where Phi has been infected with Radical-6 and begs Diana to kill and burn her before the virus spreads across the globe. The trope is defied here, with horrible consequences: 6 billion people die.
- 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.
- 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.
- The next strip subverts it, though — Vaarsuvius had no idea who Kubota was, and had only overheard the "trial" portion, concluding that indulging in such a thing would do nothing but waste valuable time and making this more of a Kick the Dog moment for V.
- 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.)
- 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.
- 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 plan, 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.
- 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 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. 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. After she has gone, Quinn-Tain expresses regret, 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.
- Towards the end of Act Five of Homestuck, Vriska is about to leave the trolls' hiding place to try to confront Jack Noir. However, Terezi, who has the power to predict the consequences of decisions, has foreseen that if Vriska leaves, Jack will follow her trail back and kill everyone remaining on the asteroid. Vriska refuses to listen, guessing that Terezi won't have the guts to stop her. She guessed wrong.
- Later, Aranea drops a house on Jade, who really is part dog, due to said dog being under villainous mind-control that would only be continuously reapplied if she were to live.
- Played with in Men in Hats:
Aram: See me shredding the papers? This is the only humane way to deal with them. Like putting a dog to sleep instead of letting it run around with a tumor in its brain.
Beriah: ...Is that why Scruffy's gone?
Aram: No, that dog was just ugly.
- In Crossworlds, Karl sees Lilly about to smash a frozen slaver, and does it himself instead.
- In Way Back Home, thinking Mana Ahmad is dead, Elle moves to kill Yasid; lest she "sully [her]self" — in body whether or not not in soul, due to feathries' Mark of Shame — Zamil does it instead.
- 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.
- Among the many morally-grey choices characters make in Worm is, in Chapter 26.6, Weaver shooting Aster to prevent Jack's Slaughterhouse Nine from doing their thing and possibly causing the end of the world. What makes this example all the more depressing is it turned out to be meaningless as it was something else entirely that will cause the end of the world.
- The opening of asdfmovie 9:
Mom: Jimmy! Take out the dog!Mom: ...For a walk, Jimmy!
- Happens a lot in Shadow Unit; one instance involved an actual dog, which (hidden for squick) a gamma nicknamed "Mrs. Chow" had started eating. Alive. From the middle.
- Diddybob in Mind My Gap finds himself stuck on the mountains with his only son Jona screaming and crying his head off. Nothing he tries to sooth him helps and the cries become too much for him to bear. He's right at the end of his mind until he's interrupted by the man from the mountains. "You've got a gun in that frikkin suitcase no? What are you waiting for? Use it man!"
- Ami from Sailor Nothing was a haughty Alpha[!frumious bandersnatch!] whom most of the main characters hated, to the point that Shin said she hoped something horrible happened to her. And it does. She's kidnapped by Argon of the Yamiko, who then turns her into a living music box by surgically strapping her into a machine made from human bones and teeth. Ami is kept in place with wires and hooks that are inserted into her face, eyelids, arms, legs, breasts, and her vagina. The worst part is that Ami is still alive, and her mind hasn't been shattered so much as it has been obliterated completely, save for her mad laughter. And Argon purposefully targeted Ami because he knew the Sailors hated her, to make it a point that the so-called soldiers of peace and justice wished for an outright evil fate to befall on Ami.
- 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)
- Avatar: The Last Airbender: Avatars Kyoshi and Yangchen (and probably others, but notably not Aang) believe this to be part of the duty of the Avatar.
- Word of God has it that only Kyoshi was actively advocating that Aang kill the Fire Lord. Yangchen's advice ("be prepared to sacrifice your spiritual needs") is ambiguous, as Yangchen was not necessarily stating that killing Ozai was the best option; she was only telling Aang that, if a better option didn't present itself, killing Ozai was a very viable option, and not something to be dismissed out of hand because Aang was feeling squeamish.
- For her part Kyoshi takes responsibility for the death of a conqueror during her time as the Avatar, who fell off of a cliff after Kyoshi separated her home from the main continent. When Aang consults her in later episodes, he claims that she was not responsible for his death as he was killed by a freak accident when the rocks he was standing on fell away. Kyoshi refuses to recognize the distinction, and adds that she would have killed him had it come down to that.
- Sokka also has a tendency to this. At one point, he immediately leaps on a (somewhat poor) village's asking how they can be repaid despite Katara's Keep the Reward attitude, pointing out that trips across the world are expensive. He also goes back on a promise made to a powerful spirit who is disgusted by human belligerence (made on his behalf by Aang, no less) in order to discover information necessary for forming a strategy to defeat the Fire Nation. Notably, when Aang hesitates to "kill" a training dummy of the Fire Lord and asks how he can be expected to kill another human being, Sokka coldly lops the training dummy's head off with his sword and replies, "like that." Sokka acts as the team's Plucky Comic Relief so much that it's easy to forget that he's also the prince of a warrior tribe and has trained in warfare his entire life.
- In Teen Titans, when Robin becomes Red X to uncover Slade's plans.
- In the season 2 finale of Transformers Prime, Optimus Prime destroys the Omega Lock — thus ruining any chance of restoring Cybertron — in order to prevent Megatron from using it to terraform Earth and wiping out humanity in the process.
- Parodied in Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles (2012) where in an episode of Leonardo's favorite sci-fi show one character gets taken over by a Puppeteer Parasite and another character instantly decides they should kill him, doing so without a second thought.
- In Steven Universe, Rose Quartz had to do this a couple of times during the Gem War. She betrayed Bismuth and covered up what happened, as the alternatives were letting Bismuth genocide the Diamonds and their allies or telling her army the truth and sowing discord at the worst time possible. She also may have murdered Pink Diamond to save Earth, though recent revelations have called into question whether she was actually responsible; she certainly took credit for it though. Steven's view of his mother is badly damaged by learning of all this, as he wonders if her quasi-Death by Childbirth was just a way to escape the consequences of her actions.
- 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. On the back, the gun is smoking and the dog is missing with the comment "You should have bought the magazine!"
- 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 real reason for the disastrous Dieppe raid of 1942 was to ease considerable pressure on Britain to launch an invasion of France that year. Churchill chose to deliberately sacrifice 7,000 men, several Navy vessels and a lot of aircraft to make the point to Russia and America that any premature attempt to invade France would be a total and utter disaster and it was best to plan ahead and do it properly in 1944. He chose to have a battle Britain could not possibly win to make this point as dramatically as possible. Dieppe may be a double dose of this, as some historians have also suggested that it was a smokescreen to keep the Nazis distracted while special forces captured an Enigma code machine.
- 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 would not exist without experiments on animals, and if it weren't animals used as test subjects, it would be humans.
- German soldiers in World War II actually had orders to shoot every stray dog they encountered on the eastern front on sight. This was the result of the Soviets experimenting with "anti-tank dogs" that had a bomb strapped to them, a triggering mechanism on their backs, and were meant to run under German tanks. The dogs were easily confused by the loud noises of the battlefields and had no way of knowing how to differentiate a German from a Soviet tank, and the project wasn't pursued much further. So the Germans decided to shoot the dog literally because the Soviets did figuratively.
- Operation Catapult during WWII. Britain's main ally, France, had fallen to German forces and signed an Armistice. Britain, resolved to fight on, is worried that Hitler will now be able to seize the well-equipped and trained French Navy. So the British launched a surprise attack on their former ally's fleet at Mers-el-Kébir. Caught completely by surprise by their erstwhile comrades, the French rapidly lost the battleship Bretagne and suffered crippling damage to the rest of their fleet. Britain would not be threatened by French ships, and would eventually be the jumping point for the liberation of France.
- Inverted courtesy of the Israeli Defense Force with the Kitty Corner Shot.
- George Orwell famously wrote, "Those who 'abjure' violence can only do so because others are committing violence on their behalf" in 1945 essay "Notes on Nationalism," capturing the essence of this idea. The quote, incorporating similar sayings from other authors such as Kipling, evolved into the better known version since then, "People sleep peacefully in their beds at night only because rough men stand ready to do violence on their behalf," which has been apocryphally attributed to many people.
- The practice of SWAT teams in the USA is to shoot any dogs, peaceful or otherwise, for fear that they may attack anyone else. While the reasoning is understandable, if a bit grim, this has unfortunately resulted in several victims of swatting losing their pets.