Family of dog shot by game warden speaks out

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STOCKBRIDGE, Vt. (WCAX) A Stockbridge family is speaking out after their family dog was shot and killed by a Vermont Fish and Wildlife warden.

"She never ever killed anything, she was just such a beautiful, beautiful dog," said Suzanne McCullough.

She is talking about her daughter's 7-year-old bloodhound, Pearl.

"Like Suzanne said, she wouldn't harm anything, she was a sweetheart," said another family member.

But, now, a small grave marks the spot where Pearl is buried. She was shot in late April by a Vermont Fish and Wildlife warden who said Pearl was chasing deer.

"The time of the year when these tend to occur, wildlife is extremely vulnerable," said Col. Jason Batchelder with Fish and Wildlife.

Officers say pet owners are usually warned, then fined, when a dog is repeatedly trying to harm wildlife. Pearl's owners were warned after neighbors complained about the hound running lose on multiple occasions.

"This is a warning, the next time we find her free, you're going to get charged up to $200," McCullough said.

But McCullough says the family never got a fine before Pearl was killed.

"My daughter was out back in the ledges looking for her that day and she heard the gunshot," she said.

The law also states that officers can shoot dogs if they are in close pursuit of endangering wildlife. In this case, they say Pearl had trailed moose and deer tracks in the past and was spotted chasing deer they day she was shot.

"Sure there are other options, but to save the lives of wildlife to continue this protection, there was no other option that day," Batchelder said.

But the family says they should have gotten more than one warning about the problems Pearl was causing.

"We would have figured out a plan and we would have just gone and gotten Pearl, rather than having her killed," said another family member.

Batchelder says while he didn't pull the trigger in this case, he has been in the situation before and says it's a gut-wrenching decision for a warden.

"Bringing that collar to that individual after the deed is done is something you couldn't wish on your worst enemy. It's awful," he said.

Pain this family knows as they are forced to say goodbye to a family pet.