HAMPSTEAD - Protesters gathered Sunday outside the West Road home of the retired Manchester police officer who shot and killed a neighbor's dog.
The demonstration, organized by activists from Massachusetts who had heard of the killing of Sadie, a 6-year-old Brittany spaniel, had the support of the dog's owners, Fred and Judy Galietta.
"We're not involved in it, but we're backing it," Judy Galietta said.
The protest was organized by Peabody, Mass., animal rights activist Suzan Acosta.
"We have to stand up for the animals that don't have a voice," said Acosta, who hopes to start up a new animal rights group, Crusaders for Animal Welfare, in the coming months. "We're not trying to take away anyone's right to own a gun. But having a gun comes with great responsibility. You need to know your target before shooting."
Hampstead police said they were alerted to the demonstration, and had four police officers outside 305 West Road while it took place. The crowd was estimated at about 50 at its peak, police said. Officers were told the same group expects to be there again next Sunday.
Fred Galietta said there were between 10 and 15 people involved in the protest when he checked on it during the afternoon.
"For a bad day weather-wise, that's not bad," he said. "It makes you feel good. We didn't organize it, but we appreciate it. This happened to us, but it could happen to you. It could happen to anyone."
Acosta said she had never met the Galiettas, and only learned of their situation through media accounts of the shooting.
"I just had to come here," said Acosta. "I had to do something. These people were so hurt by this, I felt like something needed to be done for Sadie. There were no problems, everyone was respectful. Everyone who stopped by understood what we were doing."
The Galiettas were devastated after Sadie was shot and killed Jan. 5 by their neighbor, Christopher Gibbons.
"We love animals like children," Judy Galietta said. "Anytime an animal or child is hurt, it kills us."
Gibbons was cleared of any wrongdoing in the shooting after police found he was within his rights under state law.
"The law has to be rewritten," Judy Galietta said.
State law RSA 466:28 states: "Any person may kill a dog that suddenly assaults the person while such person is peaceably walking or riding without the enclosure of its owner or keeper; and any person may kill a dog that is found out of the enclosure or immediate care of its owner or keeper worrying, wounding, or killing sheep, lambs, fowl, or other domestic animals."
The Galiettas have been calling on lawmakers to remove the word "worrying" from the law. An animal not being physically attacked is not in a state of worry, Judy Galietta said.
"We're not trying to make this one-sided," said Fred Galietta. "I would like to see language included in there that before someone takes this step, they contact their local animal control officer, or police department. Have someone assess the situation. From what I understand, the law was written to protect sheep and lambs. Worrying needs to be better defined."
Farmers have expressed their support for the law, saying it protects livestock.
Gibbons told police he shot Sadie with an AR-15 semi-automatic rifle after he found the dog harassing his two caged rabbits about 7:50 a.m. Though the dog was barking outside the cage, Gibbons told police that he was concerned for the rabbits because they are fragile and susceptible to heart attacks.
Galietta does not believe her dog was putting the rabbits in any kind of danger.
"Sadie would not do that," she said.
Acosta said she and other animal rights supporters would be back in Hampstead next Sunday at 1 p.m. to stage another peaceful demonstration.