Shoot the Pooch: Pennsylvania Court Rule that Owners Can Shoot Their Pets

180px-ghostndarknssThe Pennsylvania Superior Court has ruled that pet owners in the state cannot be prosecuted for shooting and killing their pets. The appellate court overturned the conviction of Wendy Colleen Kneller who, in 2006, shot her 6-year-old pit bull-chow mix, Bouta. The state anti-cruelty statute was deemed too ambiguous to sustain such a charge.

Writing for the majority in th 8-1 ruling, Judge Richard B. Klein held ”[i]f the Legislature wishes to make it criminal to shoot one’s own dog or cat, it must do so in a clear, unambiguous manner to give reasonable notice that the act is criminal. It did not do so in this case.”

Looking at the statute, there seems ample reason for finding the question ambiguous. 18 Pa.C.S.A. § 5511(a)(2.1)(i) states that it is a misdemeanor of the first degree if one willfully and maliciously “kills, maims, mutilates, tortures or disfigures any dog or cat whether belonging to himself or otherwise.” Yet, subsection (2.1)(iii) of section 5511 states:

The killing of a dog or cat by the owner of that animal is not malicious if it is accomplished in accordance with the act of December 22, 1983 (P.L. 303, No. 83) referred to as the Animal Destruction Method Authorization Law.

The Animal Destruction Method Authorization Law, 3 P.S. § 328.2(b) states “[n]othing in this act
shall prevent a person or humane society organization from destroying a pet animal by means of firearms.”

In securing the conviction, prosecutor showed how Kneller gave her boyfriend, Randy Miller a .40-caliber pistol and told him to shoot the dog after it bit her 4-year-old son. Witnesses said that Miller beat the dog in the head with a shovel before shooting it.

Both of their convictions were overturned, though Miller’s conviction on terroristic threats was upheld.

For the ruling, click here.

For the full story, click here.

5 thoughts on “Shoot the Pooch: Pennsylvania Court Rule that Owners Can Shoot Their Pets”

  1. So Pennsylvania Judges can’t tell the difference between euthanizing a dog and just plain old killing a dog?

    Jesus H. Christ.

  2. I don’t understand why he wasn’t charged for beating the dog in the first place. I am shocked that Pennsylvania allows a pet to be killed in this manner, especially after being beaten first. That has to be an old and outdated statute that needs to be changed.

  3. I’m not for beating a dog with a shovel, unless it is an act of self-defense. But hey, I saw “Old Yeller” when I was just a pup. Some times you’ve got to put a dog down. I’m not sure that taking an old dog old in the woods and popping him is any more crule than taking him to the vet, where he’s most likely terrified, having them shave his leg, put in an i.v., and then give him the overdose taht puts him to sleep.

    I had to have a dog put to sleep a couple of years ago, and the poor thing was terrified at the vet. Thankfully the final injection is very very quick. But if I could’ve shot him in the head while walking him I would’ve. Unfortunately I live in an urban area and would have gone straight to jail, without passing go, withpout collecting my $200. Which reminds me, to have the dog put to sleep cost a couple hundred buck. I think a round for a .38 is about 50 cents.

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