Butch Mosely, who lives and hunts near the town of Climax on eastern Decatur County, is upset after his beloved bird dog, Ace, was apparently shot to death by a neighbor.
Ace was a pointer dog, one of five hunting dogs Mosely acquired when their previous owner passed away from cancer. Three of the dogs were sold to other local hunters at the same price Mosely paid for them.
“For a pointer, Ace was an extremely friendly dog who loved to be petted, would come to you on command, and came easy when his play time was up,” Mosely wrote.
On the Saturday morning before Easter, Ace and his sister, “Cookie”, as well as two labrador retrievers belonging to Mosely’s family, were let out for their daily exercise while their kennels were being cleaned and washed out.
Mosely and his wife were sitting on their home’s back porch drinking coffee when they heard two gunshots close by. Alarmed, Mr. Mosely asked his son and farm helper, Choice Martin, where the family dogs were located. The two labs and Cookie turned up shortly, but Ace was nowhere to be found.
According to Mosely, his son Choice believed the gunshots came from a neighbor’s property and went to investigate.
After the Moselys spoke with their neighbor, who was later also contacted by Sheriff’s deputies, Butch Mosely said he determined that one of the his neighbors had allegedly shot Ace because the bird dog had wandered on to the neighbor’s property.
According to Mosely’s account, the neighbor claimed his wife had shot Ace after seeing the dog with a chicken its mouth. The neighbor had buried the dog after shooting it and Mosely’s son had to dig it up after the neighbor gave permission for him to look for the dog.
Mosely said he disputed the neighbor’s account because, in Mosely’s recollection, Ace had never been known to harass other animals, including chickens. Mosely paid for a local veterinarian to perform an autopsy of Ace–according to the vet’s report, which was reprinted in the newspaper ad, the contents of Ace’s stomach contained grass, a plastic spoon and paper towels. No chicken feathers, bones or meat were found in the dog’s stomach.
Mosely questions legal and moral ramifications of dog’s death
Butch Mosely, who also happens to be a Decatur county commissioner since 2004, said he found himself asking a series of “Why?” questions after learning of Ace’s fate.
“Why wouldn’t my neighbor give me the common courtesy of a phone call to come get my dog instead of taking his life?” Mosely wrote. “Had one of my dogs killed my neighbor’s chicken I would have paid double the value or replaced it with one of my chickens.”
Mosely said he wanted his experience to be a lesson to other pet owners.
“I hope my heartbreak and damaged relationship with my neighbors will not happen to others. Every day, for the rest of my life, when I leave my south driveway, I can see where my Ace died in a cruel, inhumane and unnecessary way.”
Mosely told us he is aware of Decatur County’s so-called “leash law,” which among other things requires residents to confine their dogs and cats to their own property. The law does not specify a method for confining the dogs, but states owners must be in control of their animals at all times and sets out a process for having dogs declared as vicious if they attack a person or farm animal.
Despite the ordinance, which was adopted by county commissioners partly in response to citizens’ complaints of dog bites, Mosely noted it is common for rural residents to let their dogs run free anyway. In Mosely’s case, his dogs are kept in kennels and were only allowed to run free temporarily while their kennels were being cleaned.
Was it illegal for the neighbor to shoot Mosely’s dog for being on the neighbor’s property?
According to legal resource site Nolo.com, people who find themselves in a situation similar to Mosely have little legal recourse.
“People have a right to defend themselves, their families, and their livestock from animals.”
“You do have the right to sue your neighbor in small claims court, but suing may not do much to relieve your anger and sorrow,” according to Nolo.com
“If you were partly at fault (say, by leaving your dog off its leash), the judge may decrease the already small amount you can get from the neighbor.”
What the Decatur County ordinance says about dogs running free
It shall be unlawful for any dog to be on the streets, lanes, roads, rights of way or squares of any subdivision in the County, or loose on vacant lots or unenclosed lots, unless such dog is held firmly on a leash held by a person.
It shall be the duty of any owner or possessor or any person who harbors or keeps any dog to confine securely the same within the limits of his/her own premises and not to permit such dog to run or have access to run the streets, lanes, highways, roads, rights of way, squares or parks of the County except as above set forth or for hunting, field trials and the working of said dogs.
It shall be unlawful for any dog owner to keep or have within the County a dog which habitually or repeatedly chases, snaps at, or attacks children, pedestrians, bike riders or conducts itself so as to be a public nuisance. To effect the impounding of such a dog, if necessary, the Animal Control Officer shall have the right to muzzle or employ such other methods as may be reasonable necessary to impound such animal and cite the owner of the animal.
Local ordinance in part supports Mosely allowing Ace to run free. The ordinance says, “Hunting dogs will be allowed to run wooded areas, Added- under direct supervision of their owner, where permitted by the owner of the property, during hunting season established by federal and/or state laws and regulations.
All hunting dogs shall bear tags containing the owner’s name, address, and telephone number.
All hunting dogs shall be vaccinated for rabies in accordance the Decatur County Board of Health Rabies Control Regulations.
All hunting dogs used in hunting game shall be properly supervised.
If any properly tagged hunting dog is taken into custody by the Animal Control Officer, or his designee, the dog shall be boarded for a minimum of five (5) Added- fourteen (14) days or until the owner of the animal has acquired the animal from the animal shelter, upon submittal of proof of ownership. Boarding costs shall be the responsibility of the owner. No penalties shall be charged.
If an owner does not recover his dog within fourteen (14) days of the dog’s having been taken into custody of the Animal Control Officer, the dog shall be treated as abandoned.”
Would the neighbor be guilty of animal cruelty?
Both state law and local ordinance define animal cruelty as “A person commits the offense of cruelty to animals when he or she causes death or unjustifiable physical pain or suffering to any animal by an act, an omission, or willful neglect.”
However, state law explicitly says the animal cruelty law shall not be applied to the killing of animals for certain purposes, including agricultural, legal hunting, veterinary purposes or private property owners defending their property.
(1) Nothing in this Code section shall be construed as prohibiting a person from:
(A) Defending his or her person or property, or the person or property of another, from injury or damage being caused by an animal; or
(B) Injuring or killing an animal reasonably believed to constitute a threat for injury or damage to any property, livestock, or poultry.
(2) The method used to injure or kill such animal shall be designed to be as humane as is possible under the circumstances. A person who humanely injures or kills an animal under the circumstances indicated in this subsection shall incur no civil or criminal liability for such injury or death.