By Judy Reed
A Nelson Township family is grieving after their beloved German Shepherd was shot in the face last week and later died.
Tammy Boughton can’t believe that someone could do this to one of the friendliest, loving dogs she’s ever known. “He never showed any aggression, and was very friendly—maybe too friendly. He was always wanting to lick everyone,” she said.
It was early in the morning last Friday, July 22, when Boughton let Gage, her 6-year-old German Shepherd, and Bella, their Brittany Spaniel, out into the backyard to go to the bathroom, as was her custom while getting ready for work. The family has seven acres in the area of 16 Mile and Stout. Boughton said she tries to keep the dogs on their property and they rarely run off.
On that Friday morning, she heard a gunshot at 6:08 a.m. Then she heard another gunshot. “I immediately looked to see where the dogs were out back. They don’t like gunshots, or fireworks, or anything like that,” said Boughton. But she didn’t see the dogs.
She called for the dogs, and then heard one running toward the house. It was Bella, the Brittany Spaniel, and her side was bloody. Gage was not with her. Boughton jumped in her car and began to search for him. When she returned home a second time, Gage was there by the porch.
“His tongue was hanging out his mouth, all bloody. It looked like a butchered piece of meat,” she recalled, trying to choke back the tears.
Boughton took him to the Emergency Animal Hospital. He had severe injuries to his tongue, and they suspected broken jaws. They told her they could amputate his tongue, but it would need to be done further back than they normally did and that dogs that had only half their tongue amputated had a better chance of adjusting. The other option was too put him to sleep.
“I called a friend and we talked it over and decided to give him a chance,” said Boughton. “So they amputated his tongue.” She added that during surgery, they found a one-millimeter entry wound, broken teeth, and his lower left jaw was broken. X-rays showed shrapnel in his mouth.
“When he came out of surgery, the vet said he was doing fine,” shared Tammy. “But about an hour later, his heart rate went down, and they couldn’t save him.”
In the meantime, Tammy had called the Kent County Sheriff Department, and they turned it over to Kent County Animal Control. “When I told the Animal Control Officer that my dog had passed, he didn’t seem to have any sympathy. He basically told me that a property owner has a right to shoot a dog for two reasons: if they are attacking livestock, or if they are attacking them.”
Boughton said she has reason to believe that it was one of her neighbors. Another neighbor had told her of threats a neighbor had made about shooting other dogs if they came on his property.
The Post checked with a spokesperson for Animal Control to find out what was being done about the shooting, and what the law said regarding it.
“Our officer did make contact with a neighbor who the dog owner had identified as a possible person of interest,” said Steve Kelso, with the Kent County Health Department. “This person denied that he had shot the dog and declined to provide further information. That individual did tell us that he had chickens but they are confined and that he has never had any trouble with any animal bothering them.”
He said that no citations have been issued in the incident.
Animal control regulations state, in section 701, page 7, under Dogs running stray, that: A person who owns or has custody or control of a dog shall prevent the dog from running at large. A person who owns or has custody or control of a dog shall, at any time the dog is off that person’s property, restrain the dog with a lead or leash no greater than six (6) feet in length.
“This regulation is in effect county wide,” noted Kelso. “Basically anytime your dog is off of your property without you it is running at large. In this case our officer did not issue a citation even though the dog’s owner told our officer that she had let them roam.”
As the Animal Control officer told Tammy, Michigan Law, under the Dog Act of 1919, states that a person may kill a dog if it is attacking livestock or people. If it is not, it is unlawful to injure or kill a dog which bears a license tag for the current year.
If you have any information about the killing of this family’s pet, please call Animal Control at 616-632-7304.