WENATCHEE — Authorities won’t pursue criminal charges against a Chelan County jailer who shot his dog several times in a botched euthanization.
The dog, a pit bull terrier mix named Louie, was found wounded June 5 near Beehive Road outside Wenatchee. His owner attempted to put Louie down and then left the dog by the road to retrieve a shovel from his home, according to a Wenatchee Police investigation.
The owner, an employee of the Chelan County Regional Justice Center, was investigated for a possible charge of second-degree animal cruelty. But Okanogan County Prosecutor Arian Noma said on Tuesday his office couldn’t establish probable cause to file animal cruelty charges.
“Even if the state felt that there was probable cause to charge animal cruelty in the second degree, the state would not be able to prove the case beyond a reasonable doubt,” Noma said.
In this instance, second-degree animal cruelty stipulates a person knowingly, recklessly, or with criminal negligence inflicts unnecessary suffering or pain upon an animal.
In a news release, Wenatchee Valley Humane Society Executive Director Dawn Davies said Noma’s decision “sends a very dangerous message.”
“The outcry from the public reassures me that we live in a more humane society where shooting a pet is not common and, more importantly, it is not acceptable nor is it necessary,” Davies said.
Residents contributed enough money to cover Louie’s nearly $5,000 in medical expenses, the release said.
To avoid potential conflicts of interest, the case was investigated by Wenatchee Police, rather than the sheriff’s office, and then forwarded to the Okanogan County Prosecutor’s Office to determine whether to press charges.
“Even though some people may be repulsed by (the owner’s) behavior, he has no criminal culpability under these facts,” Noma said.
The owner told police he’d owned Louie for three months and during that time Louie bit him and his 10- and 12-year-old sons, and showed aggression toward the owner multiple times, the report said. The man adopted the dog from a family friend.
He decided to put Louie down on June 5 after the dog stalked his neighbor through a fence, the report said. The owner felt Louie was hunting his neighbor.
The owner took Louie to the Beehive Road area and then shot him four times with a .40-caliber pistol loaded with hollow point bullets, the report said. The pistol was the owner’s personal firearm and not one issued by the jail, said Capt. Edgar Reinfeld with Wenatchee Police.
The owner realized he’d forgotten a shovel to bury Louie at home. When he returned an hour later, Louie was gone, the report said.
A motorist later found Louie nearby lying on the side of a dirt road near Beehive and then called 911. Louie was transported to Cascade Veterinary Clinic in Wenatchee for treatment. Davies said X-rays showed three bullets lodged in Louie’s skull. The bullets were removed and today he’s in good health with medical foster owners, she said.
“We’re looking at how we can permanently place him,” Davies said in an interview. “I have a feeling that (the foster owners) may want to just keep him because he’s doing great in his new home with another dog and the people are really happy with him.”
The situation could have been avoided had the owner brought Louie to the humane society, Davies said.
The owner explained to police that he attempted to euthanize Louie rather than take him to the humane society because the organization is a no-kill shelter and he didn’t want to risk another owner being attacked by the dog.
Davies said that’s an inaccurate assessment.
“Yes, we’re a no-kill shelter, but we do euthanize for behavior, aggression and illness,” she said. “There’s options that I want people to know that they can take without resorting to firearms.”
In a news release, the humane society said only 3% of dogs brought to the shelter are euthanized due to untreatable aggression, behavior, illness or injury.
“This gruesome act did not need to happen,” Davies said in the news release. “I can’t imagine shooting a dog in the head three times, not checking for a heartbeat, leaving it suffering on the side of the road, while I went to get a shovel, then coming back to find it gone.”