Family dog mistaken for coyote and shot

PITTSFORD, Vt. (WCAX) A family pet was shot in the woods of Pittsford on Christmas Day, but the shooter will not face any charges.

Lisa Granger is grieving the loss of her dog, Maple, and says she's upset with the neighbor who shot the part-husky.

"I want this man, though, to know how he's deeply saddened us because of Maple's loss. I mean, Maple was part of our family," Granger said.

Granger says her husband was checking on a nearby home when he let Maple out in the yard. That's when she ran off with the family's other dog into the woods.

After a failed search, a trooper pulled up to the Grangers' home to tell the family Maple was dead. The trooper told Granger's husband that Maple wandered onto a neighboring property. The man who shot her told the trooper he had heard rustling in his back yard from deer, then saw what he thought was a coyote chasing the deer, so he shot the animal. Then, when he approached the body, he saw Maple's collar. That's when police say the neighbor called them.

Vermont State Tpr. Steven Schutt tells Channel 3 the neighbor did not commit a crime. Schutt explains Maple could have easily been mistaken for a coyote because of the color of her coat.

"I know a coyote when I see it, and I can see why this dog would be confused with a coyote because the markings are very similar, very close. The collar was covered by the dog's fur. So it was not observed unless the fur was pulled back to reveal the collar," Schutt said.

Police say Vermont laws state that coyotes can be hunted year-round. Plus, Maple was on the neighbor's property when she was shot.

Because this was a case of mistaken identity and not negligence, the man does not face criminal charges.

Schutt says the Grangers did violate Pittsford leash laws because Maple was not on a leash and was not under their control. But, Vermont State Police is not going to pursue charges against them. Granger says her husband feels deep regret for letting Maple off a leash and accepts his part in what happened.

We wanted to speak with the neighbor, but neither the Grangers nor the police would give us his name. They both said the man is upset and extremely apologetic. He offered to compensate the Grangers for their loss.

Granger told us she will be meeting with the neighbor next week to discuss what happened and how to move forward.