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."