Posted on Nov 30, 2007 - 1:28 PM
Article published Nov 27, 2007
Dog shot, cruelty charges filed
By Peter Hirschfeld Times Argus Staff
JEFFERSONVILLE – Steppenwolf hardly lives up to his billing these days.
The 18-month-old lab mix – named for the 1960s supergroup that wrote "Born to be Wild" – is laying low at his Jeffersonville home after being hobbled by a hunter's bullet last Wednesday.
Game wardens are still investigating the incident, but police have already cited the alleged shooter into court for animal cruelty. And though Steppenwolf is expected to fully recover from his wounds, the shooting has compelled his owner to prohibit hunting on 90 acres of land he owns in Jeffersonville.
"I hate to do that. I'm not anti-hunting … But my own family and the safety of my loved ones comes first," owner Dennis Shanley says. "We don't have kids. So my dogs are my loved ones."
Scott Peterson, 49, of Jeffersonville, faces misdemeanor animal cruelty charges in the case. Peterson, who happens to be Shanley's neighbor, told authorities he fired at the dog because it was chasing a doe, according to police.
Shanley, 64, balks at the accusation.
"This was obviously a domestic dog and he wasn't chasing any deer," he says. "We followed the blood trail back to where he was shot. You could see the dog tracks were all in a straight line. He wasn't chasing deer."
According to Fish and Wildlife officials, it's legally irrelevant whether the dog was chasing deer or not. Under Vermont statute, only police officers and game wardens are vested with the authority to take down problem dogs.
"You can't go down to buy a license to shoot dogs that are chasing deer," says Tom Cook, the game warden investigating the Nov. 21 shooting. "… It's not his business to do that and that's why he's being cited into court."
Shanley discovered the gunshot wound after his dog returned home late from a morning walk. The bullet left a two-and-a-half-inch exit wound in the dog's left thigh.
"We took the dog immediately to Lamoille Valley (Veterinary Service)," Shanley says. "By a miracle no bones were broken. The round passed right next to his upper femur. They kept him overnight and the next day the surgeon operated on him."
A $1,200 surgery bill later, Steppenwolf was resting back at home in a post-op lampshade collar.
"This dog's will to live is what got him home," Shanley says. "He crawled a half-mile through the woods to get home."
Shanley says he's owned the land for 30 years and never had any problems with hunters. He'll post no-hunting signs with some regret.
"I hate to see the Vermont tradition of open land go down," he says. "But if I've got a neighbor willing to do that …"
Peterson did not return a message left at his home.
Cook says hunters, whether their motivations are good or bad, should never open fire on a domestic canine.
"Call the warden in that area. Let us follow up on it because if people are just blasting away at dogs we're going to have problems," Cook says. "I've got a bird dog that I take hunting … If my dog's out running to track down a bird and flushes out some deer and someone shoots my dog, I'm going to be a very upset person."