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Just because a dog keeps wandering onto your property doesn't mean you can just shoot it, court rules

The Massachusetts Appeals Court today upheld the animal-cruelty conviction for a man who shot a dog that kept showing up on his property in an attempt to "sting" her and make her stay away.

The Hatfield resident testified that he shot the dog not just because she kept breaking her leash at a neighbor's farm but because she was using paths he had dug through snow to let his wife, who has multiple sclerosis, exercise outside.

He was, he testified, worried his wife, who has limited mobility, would slip on the dog's feces and suffer a major injury. So the fourth time the dog - which had shown no signs of aggression - showed up on his property, he took careful aim at her hindquarters with a pellet gun and shot her. But the pellet did more than just sting the animal - it lodge near a major nerve and left her with in obvious pain for several weeks despite veterinary care - and caused a permanent limp.

Although Massachusetts law allows a person to harm an animal for "a justifiable purpose," the appeals court ruled the shooting went beyond that and was just plain cruel:

While the defendant's concern for his wife's safety is understandable, even admirable, he had legal alternatives to shooting the dog, including monitoring his property for animal feces when his wife was planning to walk, and calling the town dog officer, as he had done before. In addition, as he testified, he aimed and fired directly at the dog, hitting her in precisely the spot he intended.

On these facts, we are satisfied that the judge reasonably could have found that the defendant "intentionally and knowingly did acts which were plainly of a nature to inflict unnecessary pain, and so were unnecessarily cruel."

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including monitoring his property for animal feces when his wife was planning to walk

For real? That's crazy to put that expectation on the property owner.

and calling the town dog officer, as he had done before

And how many times is property owner expected to take a futile action?

"intentionally and knowingly did acts which were plainly of a nature to inflict unnecessary pain, and so were unnecessarily cruel

His actions absolutely do not lead to this conclusion (except in the minds of dippy liberals).

Property rights took a major blow, as did the rights of the disabled.

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LOL. You actually bought his bullshit dogshit argument. Disabled people slipping on frozen shit isn't a thing. Manure cover fields aren't used for ice hockey. And if thinking that shooting an animal is cruel makes me a "dippy liberal" then I'm happy to belong in that camp.

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The arrogance of some people is a sight to behold.

Dog shit is slippery. I have had the misfortune of slipping on dog shit while playing soccer.

It is bewildering that anyone would argue this plain fact about dog shit.

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But I would say that it is cruel to shoot a dog for pooping on your property when animal control and civil penalties exist to influence his stupid irresponsible owner into actually caring for his dog or give it to someone who will.

None of this was the dog's fault. If your neighbor or your neighbor's animals poop on your property then sue them. It is not a threat to your life or property and you do not have a right to shoot them.

PS All of the "soil" on your property is the poop of some animal or worm, get over it.

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Uh earthworm poop is beneficial to soil ecosystems unlike your canine pseudo childs poop

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Sure, canine, feline and human smell revolting and contain bacteria that is less friendly to people, but the plants don't care and the worms and flies manage it all. canine poop is not more poisonous than other poop.

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Sure, it all breaks down eventually, but in the meanwhile, dogshit is a health hazard. http://www.motherearthnews.com/organic-gardening/composting-dog-poop-zma...

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actually cats might be the worst.

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in the first place, there really is no excuse what. so. ever for shooting the dog. That's irresponsible, plus as some other posters on this thread have succinctly said, it's unusually cruel punishment. I have to admit that if I had a dog and somebody shot and killed it just for wandering onto their property, I'd be pissed off as hell about it!

Secondly (and this one's on the dog's owner), while shooting the dog was totally inexcusable, the dog's owner, however, is obligated to clean up after their dog, and not leave the dog poop lying around for people to either step in, or slip on.

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I guess I'm another dippy liberal who thinks shooting an innocent being for no reason is pretty pathetic. Smells like small dick syndrome and using his wife's illness as an excuse to shoot. There were many other ways of dealing with this and he just didn't want to.

As for the slippery shit I have stepped in dog shit myself and never took a dixie. I have actually never seen anyone take a cartoon style slip and fall with dog shit or a banana for that matter. Plus the slippery dog shit argument doesn't hold any merit here as it was winter - that shit freezes.

You obviously fall into the camp of "Me human, me better than any other living being. Me big and strong with gun. I vote Trump b/c he big talker like me. He build big wall around slippery dog shit! No he send all dog back to Mexico!"

“The greatness of a nation and its moral progress can be judged by the way its animals are treated.”

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You are younger than seventy, and you don't have Multiple Sclerosis?

The man was right to do something to get the dog off his property. The thing he did was the wrong thing.

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He could have also just picked up the poop if he had that much concern for his wife. It's not the dogs fault that he has to poop. The dog doesn't understand that he shouldn't have been on his property. He was just going for a walk.

The dogs owner should have been more concerned and taken care of it. But just b/c the owner didn't do as much as he could have (or maybe he did - I don't know) to try and block his dog from getting onto this persons property does not give this pos the right to shoot an anyone or anything.

This is the problem with the US - violence seems to be ok with people.

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The ruling comes from what the perpetrator said. He stated that he purposely shot the dog to teach it to stay away. The court is saying that he has no right to use a pellet gun to train a dog. He acknowledged openly that he intended to cause the animal pain in his testimony to the court. If he had STFU, then it would have been more difficult to determine that his acts were primarily intending to hurt the dog, instead of a permissible consequence of protecting himself. I not saying it would make him a better person, but the lawyer that let him testify was an idiot.

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I totally agree with "anon." That guy was within his rights to take a shot at that dog, though I think he should be responsible for vet bills. He miscalculated about the precision of his aim and the damage the gun would do. Careless, not intentionally cruel.

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The point is that he stated that he intended to cause the animal pain. He did not intend to damage the dog, but he fully intended to hurt it.

For instance, you can be responsible for hitting a dog with your car, but it is not cruelty because you never intended to hurt the dog. That could be careless or negligent.

This was not careless, as he intended to shoot the dog and believed that the pain would cause to leave and not return. The pain to the animal was intended, and so cruel.

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Gonna be kind of hard to take care of your sick wife while you're in jail for shooting an innocent animal. Jerkoff.

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The penalty upheld is administrative probation and restitution for medical costs. There's no jail involved here.

The legal standard held is that his fear that his wife might slip on the dog's shit was not a justifiable cause to shoot the dog in the ass with the .22 caliber pellet gun. Shooting the dog in the ass with that gun on the basis of this concern was found to cause unnecessary pain to the animal.

Pellet guns shoot non-spherical projectiles, sometimes with a hollow tip. These projectiles travel faster, have more mass, and cause much more damage, than a spherical BB. They are two to three orders of magnitude greater in power (joules) than a BB gun. Some have comparable power to a traditional, explosive-fired .22 rifle.

It was a stupid idea and bad judgement on defendant's part to shoot the dog with such a dangerous weapon. He could have killed the dog.

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He'll screw up with his gun again, and next time, he'll get a real punishment, because his town is way too small for him to be anything other than "that guy who shot the dog" ever again. It's George Zimmermanesque.

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The number of guys in Hatfield who have shot dogs with something or other in the past decade is surely greater than one. It's farm country. If the dog had a mouthful of chicken at the time, there wouldn't even be a case.

Wait, are you saying the dog was black?

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I said the way you move gonna make you sweat, gonna make you groove.

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Can't keep away?

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I always thought it was "honey drip," and that was the reason Robert Plant named his other band that.

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to a mondegreen.

For the longest time, I thought Aerosmith was singing about gravy made from turnips.

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I live not far from Hatfield. As you say, it's farm country and small towns around there, and I can't help but think that people shooting dogs would be noticed, and I haven't heard of other cases like this. If the dog had a mouthful of chicken, as you say, no one would complain about it (at least if it was a repeat act -- do it once, and paying for the chickens plus a fine and restraining your dog would probably be appropriate), but under other circumstances (as in this case), you bet it would be the talk of the town.

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Will I just read your comment and I'm still LMFAO!!! Votes across the board!!!

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Thank you

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This is America, you can only shoot a person who is trespassing, not a dog.

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So, no, you can't.

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Goes beyond MA. Trespassers cannot be shot in other states. The Massachusetts is so amazing line of thought is quite pervasive around here.

People breaking into your home is another story.

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If your land is not posted, you must warn them off.

If your land is posted or the trespasser has been warned, you can have them arrested.

Massachusetts got nothin' to do with it, Chump-Cracker.

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What an asshole. I'd be somewhat sympathetic if the dog was aggressive but it sounds like he simply wanted to shoot something.

A little pepper spray would accomplish the same goal and wouldn't cause any lasting damage on the dog.

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You mean they don't teach dogs how to behave in dog training classes with pellet guns?!? Thanks Obama.

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This is how my dog died when I was a kid. He had a dog house in the backyard and would dig his way out by going underneath the fence. No matter how many times my grandma would go in and put the dirt back and try to put heavy wood in front of the fence, he'd always find a way. And before anyone asks: My grandma's old school; she didn't grow up with dogs in the house -- it was unheard of.

He was a very sweet black, shaggy dog and couldn't help his curious nature. My other neighbors were fine with him, and he loved to be petted, but one of my older male neighbors made regular threats about my dog showing up in his yard.

Then one morning, I woke up to my uncles digging a hole in the backyard. I asked what happened and my mom told me that the neighbor shot him in the leg the night before. We had no idea. My dog bled out and was found in our yard the next morning. That neighbor never apologized and I gave him the stink-eye and silent treatment until the day he died (a couple of years ago).

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Why would the neighbor apologize?

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killing a little boy's dog sucks.

You needed that explanation?

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(I'm actually a woman, but thanks for sticking up for me!)

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...Because he shot and killed my damn dog? My non-aggressive, very gentle, if not a little annoying with his nosiness, dog?

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Did your neighbor have livestock? Dogs can stress livestock to the point of death and can be dispatched quite ethically if they are worrying livestock.

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Nope, we lived in the suburbs. The only animals around were cats, dogs, and squirrels.

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I've been riding my bike and have had large dogs chase after me aggressively with no owner nearby. I normally stop and put the bike between me and the dog. It can be terrifying if the dog doesn't back down (as if often the case) and seems like they are getting ready for an attack. I've also had dog jump out of bushes and bite friends who were riding on public roads. Thankfully dogs like this are rare in Massachusetts but they are common in southern states.

I'm not one to carry firearms but I've consider them for this purpose.

I would never shoot a dog if I thought I had another way out but it isn't always clear when a dog is "just being friendly" and is actively looking to bite. Just as I'd fight back if someone ran at me with a knife, I'd harm a dog if I felt my safely was at risk. I'm sorry if that dog is someone's beloved pet but as a dog owner you have no excuses for letting a dog get off lease and aggressively chase people on public property.

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I bear sprayed a dog in Alberta when it charged me while biking along a rural road. I found out later that the owner had been warned repeatedly by the mounties to keep the dogs in, and that one of them had bitten a friend of my brother's step daughter. No need for a gun. No wonder the owner came out, apologised, and took the dog in ... any report would mean serious trouble for him and dead dogs.

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Pepper spray has a bunch of shortcomings unfortunately, the weather, spraying yourself (which is nearly impossible not to do), having to be quite close to the animal, all make pepper spray a challenge. Easier to shoot a worrying dog from a further distance.

Of course up close that reverses. Easier to use spray than a firearm.

Dogs are ultimately property and if people have a reasonable fear for their life they can use lethal force against a dog quite readily.

It is a real shame when it comes to that because it is not truly the dogs fault it is the property owner who failed to properly train and control their proeprty.

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I was in a foreign country.

My SIL insisted that I carry the spray, and it did come in handy. Bear spray shoots quite a ways, too, so I managed not to get much on anything but my hand (and I carry wet wipes so that took care of it).

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Challenge I have found is the small pocket able sprays are weak in the spray department. I have a cop sized one on my belt I have set up for home defense and I bring the big bottle with me where I cannot bring firearms. NY. NJ etc.

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What do you do for a living that makes you so concerned about being attacked at all times?

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I carry a cell phone sized pistol not a service pistol for a reason, when on the road, which is often, I stay at mediocre hotels and do a lot of traveling at night.

I am curious what you do for a living in which taking any steps to ensure your personal safety are not necessary?

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Health impact and risk assessment.

Having guns and other weapons around is a bigger risk to the health and safety of me and my family than the risks you are concerned about.

I also grew up in a drug challenged trailer court in the 1970s, so I know that crime risks are much lower now.

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To each his own.

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Regular spray should do. Even a little tabasco or hot sauce can deter most dogs that aren't trying to outright kill you.

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Bear spray is easy to carry around in the woods, outside of the woods and it is not so discrete. Plus carrying it with the intention of using it in self defense against 2 legged animals is probably illegal.

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I only carried it because of concern about bear attacks, which had been pretty bad that year in Alberta. My SIL made sure that I had some for my camping trip and on my ride.

I used it on that big snarling dog because it was what I had handy.

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I totally understand that fear of encountering an unknown animal, but that isn't the same as my experience nor that of the man in this article.

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If you are in fact interested in firearm there are a number of pocket 380s that are good for biking. About the same size as a cell phone and can be readily holstered in a variety of ways. 380 is not the most potent of rounds but they sure are easy to carry.

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Sure, but good luck getting a carry permit in this city...

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True enough, I got my LTC when I lived outside of the city. By the time I need to renew I will likely be back outside of the city.

Fundamental rights dictated by zip code, hell of a state.

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Something that looks like a gun shaped object in my back pocket next to the clif bars.

Great for those idiots who pass too close right after a sign that says "bikes using full lane" while blathering something about "you don't own the road".

Not sure I'd trust myself with a real one - it would be too easy, which is a problem with guns in general. I'm way too much of an ethnic redneck for that.

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The thing about concealed is that generally it is quite concealed. People have zero clue you are carrying if you have the proper holster/belt. Heck even when I wear an on belt holster but with a shirt over the grip of the gun people do not notice despite the fact that half the holster is plainly visible. Only carry like that hiking tho.

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I've never had to blockade a dog but once a medium sized dog bolted out of a yard when we were riding on a slight downhill and two of my friends crashed when one hit it (we were drafting, I was just behind them but narrowly avoided it). I think the dog was running for the bike ahead of them and my friend's front wheel hit the dog's hip and spun it out of the way. Neither rider were hurt beyond some scrapes and bruises but one bike was totaled because the frame bent and one had a wheel trashed.

When the owner was contacted through the town he denied it because he said his dog wasn't hurt so it couldn't have been him. Some neighbors had identified the dog as they saw it happen and it was documented with the police. My friend offered to split the cost of a new frame as it was old and he would transfer the components but the guy just kept saying, "Nope, wasn't my dog" to any sort of deal. His homeowners insurance ended up buying my friend a brand new bike, replaced the other wheel and I'm pretty sure he ended up paying more to the insurance company than he would've on a wheel and half of a frame/fork (it was an old steel frame so he wasn't asking for much).

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"I'm pretty sure he ended up paying more to the insurance company than he would've on a wheel and half of a frame/fork (it was an old steel frame so he wasn't asking for much)."

Awesome! Nice life lesson regarding the control of ones property.

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Sounds like the neighbors were fed up with the guy letting his dog run, too.

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Here's something you as a child couldn't understand, but adult dog owners need to. If you let your dog wander, it can get into situations that have serious repercussions for the dog. I understand that your family members did make efforts to prevent the dog from roaming, but they weren't successful. Your beloved dog could have wandered in front of a bus, or tangled with a coyote, or harassed another pet or a child or livestock. Yes, I know you lived in the suburbs; yes, I know your dog was sweet and gentle, but here's the thing many dog owners seem not to get: a "well-behaved" dog knows how to behave well in a particular setting, when surrounded by known people/animals. Put the dog in a strange environment and they don't know what's their territory, what's their property, who or what belongs there, etc. It's really too bad that you had to learn such a hard lesson, but the useful lesson isn't really that nasty bad people shoot dogs. It's that dogs that aren't under supervision can't be expected to be self-regulating.

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It sounds like this oughta get appealed again. If the man really did think that in good faith that the pellet would bounce of the dog and leave a bruise, then it's hard to say the intent was cruel.

On the other hand, the case law cited by the court don't leave room for that interpretation. The relevant cases are more of the variety "guy left dog chained outside in freezing cold without food and water", which we would all label as cruel, even if the owner's intent is more severe neglect than deliberate cruelty.

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