Dog shot, and law says it's OK
HAMPSTEAD - A local couple is angry after their dog was killed by a neighbor in a shooting that police determined was justified under state law.
Fred and Judy Galietta's 6-year-old dog, Sadie, a Brittany spaniel, was killed Saturday morning after she went into a neighbor's yard. Christopher Gibbons told police that he used his rifle to shoot the dog because it was barking and running around the cage of his two rabbits.
"It was absolutely not justified. This was a one-time incident with his rabbits. He could have thrown a rock at her or anything else to get rid of her and she would have run away. If the dog had the rabbit in her mouth, I would say he had every right to shoot the dog," Fred Galietta said.
Hampstead police Lt. John Frazier said Gibbons told police that he awoke to the sound of a dog barking outside his window. When he looked into his yard, he saw the dog "chasing" around the rabbit cage in his yard at 305 West Road.
Gibbons, a former Manchester police officer, stated that his rabbits were frantic and that they are fragile and prone to heart attacks, Frazier said.
Frazier said Gibbons then stated he grabbed a rifle as the dog continued to run around the rabbit cage and shot the spaniel, killing it instantly.
Police said the weapon was a .223-caliber AR-15 semi-automatic rifle.
Galietta said he feels the dog was shot in retaliation because he's complained about Gibbons' target shooting at all hours of the night.
Gibbons would not talk about the incident when reached at his home Wednesday afternoon.
"At this point I think it's best to leave things be," he said from an upstairs window at his residence.
Police investigated the shooting, but after reviewing a state law known as RSA 466:28, concluded that the shooting was legal.
The law 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 Hampstead Police Department review of the case, as unfortunate as it is, cannot find Gibbons criminally liable due to the parameters set forth in NH RSA 466:28, which legally allow the shooting," Frazier said.
Hampstead police also had the case reviewed by the Rockingham County Attorney's Office, which reached the same conclusion.
Galietta said he plans to push for changes in the law to remove the term "worrying."
"Don't get me wrong, I believe that if you have farm animals or any other kind of animal around your house that are being harassed, bitten, eaten or killed by a dog or anything else, you should have a right to protect your animals from being physically harmed. There's no physical harm by worrying. That's an absurd word that never should have been put in there," he said.
On the day of the shooting, Galietta said his wife let Sadie outside to go to the bathroom. A short time later, the dog made a "yipping" noise. He claims Sadie wasn't barking at the rabbits, nor was she running around the cage. Galietta said there were no paw prints around the cage and that the only prints found went from his property at 295 West Road to the back of the cage.
Judy Galietta told police that after she heard Sadie yipping, she started to go out into the yard to call for her when she heard two shots.
She continued into her neighbor's yard, where she found Sadie lying next to the rabbit cage.
Fred Galietta said Sadie never caused a problem for the neighbors and that this was the first time that she ever went over to the rabbit cage.
"There has never been a complaint, either to me or to my wife or to local authorities," he said. "We would let her out, she would do her business and come in."
The Galiettas, who have owned Sadie since she was two months old, described her as a friendly and affectionate dog.
Judy Galietta is still in shock over the shooting.
"I don't feel safe in my own house anymore and I won't go out in my yard," she said.