Kremmling family grieving after puppy is shot to death outside their yard
KREMMLING — A Kremmling family is distraught after their four-month-old husky was shot to death outside their yard Monday afternoon, but police say no crime occurred.
On Monday evening, the Grand County Sheriff’s Office responded to a home in Kremmling on Depot Avenue where a dog had gotten out of its fenced yard and onto a neighboring ranch causing the rancher’s son to shoot the dog twice.
Around 4 p.m. Monday, Jeffrey Fowler, Jr., who is staying with his sister Gwendolyn Cook at her home in Kremmling, heard the first gunshot and went to see what was happening. Fowler said he saw his sister’s puppy, Demon, had escaped their fenced yard and was bleeding on the ground outside the fence, near the railroad tracks that border the property.
Fowler said he saw a pickup truck near the dog and watched as the driver took a semi-automatic rifle and shot the dog a second time, killing it. Then the driver of the truck took the dog’s body and discarded it in a field, he said.
“It was the most horrific thing I’ve ever seen in my life,” he said. “I yelled at him and I wish I would have had my phone on me, so I could have videotaped it, but I was in such shock, I didn’t even consider it.”
Lt. Dan Mayer, spokesperson for the Grand County Sheriff’s Department, said the rancher’s son believed the dog was harassing their cattle and shot it with an AR-15, then followed it off the ranch property and shot it a second time, potentially so the dog didn’t suffer.
Cook, Demon’s owner, said the dog wasn’t aggressive and was very social. She believes he meant no harm and, if anything, was just trying to play with her neighbor’s cattle. Cook also noted that her dog wears a collar and tags with their information on it.
“I have lived next to farms my whole life and they call you and say ‘hey your dog is harassing my animals so do something about it or I will shoot them’ and you do something about it,” she said. “I am just devastated, I can’t believe this would happen here.”
However, Mayer said that the rancher’s son is protected by Colorado Title 35, which allows ranchers to kill dogs that they believe are running, worrying or injuring their livestock regardless of whether the dog is on their property.
“The law specifically states that they can and it’s a very hard point for the dog owners,” Mayer said. “The rancher does not have to really prove anything. They just have to say the dog was in the proximity of my cattle. (…) We aren’t real happy about it, but we can’t change the law.”
The statute reads “any dog found running, worrying, or injuring sheep, cattle, or other livestock may be killed, and the owner or harborer of such dog shall be liable for all damages done by it.”
Mayer said Animal Control has recently received several complaints of dogs harassing cows in that area, though it is unclear if the complaints are related to this instance. He also explained that this situation is not uncommon and police receive one or two similar reports per year.
He said the police are continuing their investigation to make sure no crime was committed and explained that there is no threat to human life.
Regardless, Cook said she is uncomfortable sending her children outside now that this incident has occurred. She said they had not met this neighbor and had no issues with them until now.
“I just don’t know what to do at this point,” she said. “My kids are distraught.”
Cook said she is reaching out to animal rights lawyers and will lobby against the Title 35 statute in the future.
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The Grand County Coroner’s Office identified the man who died in an industrial accident Monday at Colorado Timber Resources as Pierce Hopkins, 24, of Kremmling.