The Juneau District Attorney’s office has decided not to press charges against a Haines man suspected of killing one dog and wounding another with arrows last January, but police may pursue the matter under borough law.
Assistant district attorney Amy Williams said she declined to prosecute the case, but wouldn’t elaborate on specifics of the Haines Borough Police Department investigation that factored into her decision.
In order to prosecute, Williams said her ethical standards require her to be able to prove every element of a criminal case. “I did not believe that that was the case here,” she said.
Williams said she is withholding specifics because she doesn’t want to jeopardize the borough’s chance at securing a conviction at the municipal level through a cruelty to animals section of code. “I don’t want the city to lose any opportunity to pursue the case if they are so inclined,” she said.
The dogs, owned by Jeremiah Kinison and Shannon Thompson, were shot in a wooded area north of View Street, between Lynnview Drive and Fourth Avenue. One dog returned home with an arrow through its belly and later died; the other survived despite an arrow lodged into its scalp.
Interim police chief Simon Ford this week said he will likely file a cruelty to animals citation under Haines Borough code “sooner rather than later.” State statute requires prosecutors to prove malicious intent; borough code does not.
Maximum penalty under code is $300, although a first offense is usually 25 percent of that, Ford said. The judge or magistrate makes the final call on the amount.
In the interest of being fair, Ford said he will likely cite the dog owners as well, for letting their dogs run around the neighborhood unchecked. “I don’t mean to make light of what happened to his dogs – it’s tragic – but at the same time had he followed the borough code, none of this would have happened,” Ford said.
Ford said the owners admitted the dogs were routinely let outside to wander around for 15 to 20 minutes at a time. “That’s obviously failing to control your dog,” he said.
Thompson, whose dog Foxy died after being shot through the stomach with an arrow, said she is disappointed in the district attorney’s decision not to prosecute. “My opinion on that is that it sucks. I can’t say anything else. That’s too bad,” she said.
Though a citation for letting the dogs run at large would almost be adding insult to injury, Thompson admitted she sees the reasoning behind Ford’s decision. “It probably is fair, because they weren’t on a leash or anything like that,” she said.
Maple, the dog that was shot through the scalp, has recovered and is doing great, but is being kept on a leash, Thompson said. “She’s healed up very well. She’s a bouncy little dog, happy as can be.”
In terms of the Haines Police investigation, Ford said there wasn’t anything the department could have done differently to secure better evidence or strengthen the case for the attorney’s office.
“We put a massive amount of energy into this and talked to a lot of people. I think we have as good a case as we were going to get with what we could get... The person that we’re suspecting just absolutely wouldn’t talk. He said, ‘Talk to my lawyer.’ You’re not going to get anything else once that happens. But as far as forensic investigation, we did everything we could,” Ford said.
A confession and eyewitnesses were two pieces of evidence that would have strengthened the case, he said.
Ford said although the attorney’s decision not to prosecute doesn’t mean people can shoot their neighbors’ dogs, it does raise interesting questions about the reaches of the law and what is and isn’t allowed. Shooting arrows in the townsite, for example, isn’t disallowed, though shooting guns is.
“Not that I want to encourage people shooting their neighbor’s dog with any kind of arrow at all, but it’s not addressed in code. It doesn’t say you can’t do that. Especially if you have chickens or rabbits or something and you’re protecting them from a stray dog that’s on your property, that’s well within your right to do. I’m not an advocate of it, but I think there may be times when that’s reasonable, to kill a dog that’s on your property,” he said.
What likely piqued public interest in the case and made the incident so appalling was the type of arrow used to shoot the dogs, Ford said. The arrows found lodged in the dogs were the blunt-tipped variety commonly used to shoot paper targets or hay bales; hunting arrows are designed to cause massive tissue damage, hemorrhaging, and quick death.
“This was a prolonged suffering. Those dogs were likely in agony for hours,” Ford said.