Although state law prohibits anyone from discharging a firearm within 450 feet from a residence, the 64-year-old man who shot and killed his neighbor’s dog last weekend was well within his rights, said Lt. Dan Toth of the Oakland County Sheriff’s Orion substation.
“In that type of incident or situation, a homeowner has a legal basis to defend his property or dogs and himself,” Toth said. “That would trump the other regulations and guidelines about discharging a firearm. A citizen has a legal right to protect their property when they make that judgment call. I’ve read some of the comments, and I know that people are very emotional when it comes to these situations and pets, because they are like family members.
“However, we look at what’s legal and keep the emotions out of it. I think, at the end of the day, the focus needs to be the fact that the dog was running loose. The dog was on the citizen’s property. He felt it was acting aggressive, and there was evidence there that supported everything he stated.”
The man, who has not been named, called 9-1-1 himself, Toth said, and feels bad about the shooting.
The Oakland County Sheriff’s Office responded to the nighttime call Friday, June 27, on Crediton Street and reported a dog, which its owner describes as a Labrador mix, was running loose in the neighborhood. A homeowner said the dog attacked his dog through the fence. Deputies report the man shot the dog twice with his shotgun and will not be charged after an investigation by the Oakland County Animal Control and Pet Adoption Center.
“The shooter was defending his property and made every attempt to resolve the issue without shooting but had to shoot the dog to save his own dog from being attacked,” said Bob Gatt, Oakland County Animal Control and Pet Adoption Center manager.
Kelli Ledger, 27, of Orion Township owned the dog that was killed for three years, since it was a puppy. She described Bella as a Labrador mix with some pit bull characteristics. As the family prepared to leave for a fair, her children let the dog out of the house by mistake, she said. Her live-in boyfriend, Kyle Purman, 30, heard two shots. In addition, she believes the dog was simply running up and down the fence line.
“I was scared, because we just bought this house in December,” she said. “Obviously, it’s our first summer here. I have kids I’m having grow up in this neighborhood, and I don’t know the kinds of neighbors I have. It’s scary. You don’t want your dog to get loose, but sometimes that happens, and it’s sad that the neighbor couldn’t just call and say ‘your dog is loose and can you come get her.’”
Ledger and Purman have one child, Makenna, 2, and are expecting a second.
Animal Control personnel will investigate whether dogs from both families are licensed. Both Bella and Ledger’s other dog, Jasmine, are licensed, she said. If the shooter’s dogs are not licensed, the man would be given a warning and if he did not secure licenses within 10 days, he would receive a ticket, Gatt said.
“Every American citizen has the right to protect his or her property,” Gatt said. “I would recommend all steps be taken short of using a gun to do so. In the event your property is being attacked by an animal, I believe we have the right to protect our property in any way available.”