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Essex Officer Pleads Not guilty in Dog's Shooting

Posted on May 27, 2009 - 7:02 AM
Burlington Free Press

May 26, 2009

Essex officer pleads not guilty in dog's shooting

HYDE PARK — An Essex Police officer accused of fatally shooting his neighbor’s dog pleaded not guilty in Vermont District Court in Hyde Park Monday to committing cruelty to animals.

Michael Wootton, 34 of Waterville, allegedly shot Hooch, an 80-lb. mixed breed, after it attacked his dog, Yoda, a 20-lb. pug, on Phyllis Lane in Waterville, April 30, according to court papers.

At his arraignment, Judge Brice Simon released Wootton on conditions he not intentionally contact the dog’s owners, Ritchie and Rosemary Rogers, and the people home with Hooch at the time of the shooting, Mindy Maskell and Shawn Hickok.

One" target="_blank">Vermont law prohibits the intentional killing of someone’s pet without the owner’s consent, while a different state law" target="_blank">lawpermits the killing of a pet if the animal attacks, and poses a reasonable threat of injuring, another pet.

“There’s an overlap between them,” Lamoille State’s Attorney Joel Page said. “Kind of a gray area.”

Page, the prosecutor in Wootton’s case, said he considered charging Wootton with reckless endangerment, given the possible close proximity of people to the shooting.

“It did not appear that there was anyone in the line of fire, or that the distances were close enough for the basis of reckless endangerment,” Page said.

Anyway, he added, the maximum penalty for cruelty to animals — a fine of $2,000, up to one year in prison or both — is greater than the maximum penalty for reckless endangerment — a fine of $1,000, up to one in prison or both.

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