Wednesday, April 17, 2013

Iowa Man Found Guilty of Animal Abuse in Christmas Eve Shooting of Dog

You might remember this past Christmas Eve when a man named Charles Collins Cutler of Marne, IA, got in trouble for shooting a dog in his yard. The dog's name was Wrigley and he was an 18-month-old chocolate Labrador. The dog and his owner were passing through from Denver, CO, to the Quad Cities. They had stopped for the night and the dogs were playing in the snow when Cutler shot and killed the younger dog. Cutler was initially charged with reckless use of a firearm, but subsequently charged with animal abuse.

This case went to trial this month and the jury came back with a guilty verdict related to the animal abuse charge. The Cass County District Court jury ruled that Cutler did not have the right to shoot the licensed and collared dog because Wrigley wasn't chasing, maiming, or killing another pet, nor was he attacking or attempting to bite any person.

The Omaha World-Herald offered probably the clearest description of what happened back on 12/24/12. Wrigley, his owner Stacey Ernat, and her boyfriend Andrew Knuth were traveling from Denver, CO, to the Quad Cities to spend Christmas with her parents. They stopped in Marne for an overnight visit with Peterson's brother, who lives near Cutler. Wrigley and a German shepherd named Ranger were allowed to play unsupervised for a few minutes while the others were inside.

The dogs ran off and ended up in Cutler's yard. Cutler explained in testimony that he was trying to get from his garage to his home when he was approached by both dogs. He said that one of the dogs growled and made him fearful about his safety, as well as for the safety of his cats. He says that he tried shooing the dogs away, but they didn't respond. Since he didn't feel that he could safely get into his home, he retreated to his garage, where he apparently stores a shotgun. Only Wrigley was still in the yard when Cutler came out with the shotgun. He shot the dog as it was turning away from him and shot him in the dog's hindquarters.

The dog subsequently died in a nearby veterinary clinic later that morning. None of those affiliated with Ernat witnessed the dogs' behavior leading up to the shooting incident.

Cutler argued unsuccessfully in court that he feared for his safety and believed that he had a legal right to defend himself and his property from the dogs.

Cutler will be sentenced next month. He faces up to two years in prison and up to $6,250 in fines.

There are a few morals to this story...

1. Don't let your pets run around unsupervised. An unsupervised pet can meet a tragic end very quickly. Plus, you never know when your dog might become threatening to someone else -- or appeal threatening to someone else who doesn't know your dog.

2. Don't be so quick to pull out the guns. A simple cell phone call to 911 might have served Cutler well in this situation.

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