A hunting dog in Idaho didn’t survive a mistaken identity situation.
It’s a heartbreaking truth that every time we step into the hunting field with our dog, we put them in danger. Dogs can get hurt out in the woods in a number of ways: they can cut themselves on jagged sticks or barbed wire fences; they can suffer from cold temperatures and deep snow; and worst of all, they can find themselves on the receiving end of an accidental shot from a hunting rifle.
That’s precisely what happened to a hunter’s dog in Idaho, a yellow lab in a brown leather vest that looked a bit too much like a coyote for his own safety in the hunting field. On December 8, the dog – a seven-year-old yellow lab named Gunner – was shot and killed by another hunter, according to the Idaho State Journal.
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According to witness accounts, the dog’s owner – a man named Chris Mickelson – was waterfowl hunting when he landed a shot on a goose. Gunner ran ahead to retrieve the bird, with Mickelson hurrying along behind him. It was then that a pick-up truck pulled on the road ahead of where Mickelson was. A man stepped out of the truck, aimed, pulled the trigger, and hit Gunner. Before Mickelson could reach the dog, the man had gotten back in his car and driven away.
The shot mortally wounded Gunner, who bled to death well before Mickelson could get the dog to a vet for attention. In the wake of the tragedy, Mickelson sought out the help of numerous animal rights organizations to help find his dog’s killer and bring the man to justice.
Evidently, the shooter was found, but a prosecuting attorney in the county where the shooting took place recently ruled that the man would not be required to stand trial for his act. Instead, the attorney has sided with the shooter’s story that the dog was mistaken for a coyote.
The attorney said that malicious intent to harm an animal could not be proven in this case, though he did offer his deepest condolences to the Mickelson family on the loss of their dog. In addition, the attorney put forth a request that the shooter have his hunting license revoked. In the attorney’s estimation, the man is guilty of improper handling of a weapon and should have taken the time and care to identify his target before pulling the trigger.
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Neither Chris Mickelson nor his lawyer has yet released a comment concerning the disappointing decision of the prosecuting attorney. However, the Portneuf Animal Welfare Society (PAWS), one of the organizations that assisted Mickelson in the search for his dog’s killer, was outspoken in its condemnation of what it feels was an unfair and inaccurate ruling.
JoLynn Anderson, the founder of PAWS, believes that the prosecuting attorney’s decision is sending a troubling message about firearm accountability. The prosecutor’s office has opted not to release the shooter’s name to the public, a position of anonymity that Anderson fears will only lead to a spread of the “shoot first, ask questions later” mentality that the shooter in this case so clearly practiced.