Neighbor shoots dog in apparent effort to destroy the ‘evidence’

By Linda Bentley | April 7, 2010

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dave etter and his dog roscoDavid Etter kept a close watch on his dog Rosco, a German Shepherd/Shar-pei mix, after X-rays revealed Rosco had been shot in the head four times. Rosco was snared by a neighbor’s leghold trap baited with cow guts on state land adjacent to their property.  Photo by Linda Bentley

‘Cruel mistreatment’ means to torture or otherwise inflict unnecessary serious physical injury upon an animal

CAVE CREEK – On Tuesday, March 30, when David Etter came home from work, he sensed there was something wrong when his dog Rosco, a German Shepherd/Shar-pei mix wasn’t right there to welcome him home. 

Etter said he went around to one neighbor’s house to ask if he’d seen Rosco. The neighbor said he hadn’t, but while Etter was there, they heard what at first sounded like a coyote howling.

When Etter heard a subsequent “scream” he realized it wasn’t a coyote but a dog.

He walked over in that direction and found Rosco sitting under a Palo Verde tree on the state land abutting the south side of Lazy Lizard Lane where they live.

Etter said Rosco was just sitting there looking at him with blood all over his face, but wouldn’t come.

When Etter got closer, he saw a pile of cow guts and found Rosco caught in a leghold trap.
Etter released Rosco’s front right paw from the trap but said that didn’t explain why his face was all bloody.

Etter said he knew his neighbor Doug Ward had just butchered a cow, which explained the cow guts.

He also said his neighbor liked to shoot coyotes, although Etter said he didn’t know Ward had been setting traps.

While Etter’s girlfriend whisked Rosco off to Animal Health Services, Etter said he pulled the trap out of the ground and approached Ward, who admitted the trap was his and apologized to Etter for ensnaring Rosco.

It wasn’t until after Rosco returned from the vet did Etter learn Rosco had also been shot four times and all four bullets were still lodged in Rosco’s head.

Although Rosco is recovering, it’s almost a certainty Rosco will lose his left eye.

According to Etter, when Ward realized Rosco was snared in the trap instead of a coyote, he probably attempted to release him from the trap.

However, Etter said Rosco most likely wouldn’t allow him to get that close.

Etter believes Ward panicked, didn’t want to reveal he trapped Etter’s dog, and tried to kill Rosco “to destroy the evidence.”

But Rosco didn’t die, not even after getting hit with four shots, now all lodged in his head.
Because the bullets are lodged in such close proximity to Rosco’s brain, Etter said Dr. Faver at Animal Health Services recommended against removal.

Maricopa County Sheriff’s Office deputies took an initial report and have since referred the investigation to its animal cruelty division.

Ward could be cited with a number of charges, ranging from a class 2 misdemeanor up to a class 6 felony.

A.R.S. § 17.301(D) states: “It shall be unlawful to take wildlife with any leghold trap … on any public land, including state owned or state leased land …” Although there are exceptions, none apply to this situation. Violation is a class 2 misdemeanor.

Cave Creek Town Code § 130.13 Weapons and Animal Traps states: “It is unlawful to discharge a firearm within the town” except in self defense; on a properly supervised range; in an area recommended as a hunting area by Arizona Game and Fish Department (AGFD), approved and posted as required by the town marshal; for the control of nuisance wildlife by permit from the AGFD or the United States Fish and Wildlife Service; by special permit of the town marshal; or as required by an animal control officer in the performance of duties. Violation is a class 1 misdemeanor.

A.R.S. § 13-2910(A) states, “A person commits cruelty to animals if the person does any of the following: (3) Intentionally, knowingly or recklessly inflicts unnecessary physical injury to any animal; (4) Recklessly subjects any animal to cruel mistreatment; (9) Intentionally or knowingly subjects any animal to cruel mistreatment.”

Violations of paragraphs 3 and 4 are class 1 misdemeanors, while a violation of paragraph 9 constitutes a class 6 felony.

According to statute, “cruel mistreatment” means “to torture or otherwise inflict unnecessary serious physical injury upon an animal or to kill an animal in a manner that causes protracted suffering to the animal.”

The dumping of cow guts on state land constitutes criminal littering, a class 2 misdemeanor.

The slaughter of livestock is regulated by A.R.S. § 3-2011 and states, “Producers or owners who slaughter livestock, sheep, goats, swine or equines for the purpose of using the meat for food for themselves, their immediate family or employees, and not for sale, shall not be required to procure a special permit or a license to slaughter as required by this article, but the whole hide of all livestock so slaughtered, except swine, shall be hung in a conspicuous place on the premises of the producer or owner and kept there until the hide has been inspected and marked or tagged by a livestock officer. The meat from the livestock so slaughtered shall not be removed from the premises of the producer or owner without being stamped ‘not for sale’ by the livestock officer.”

It’s unknown if these procedures were followed in the butchering of the cow. In any event, a violation would also be a class 2 misdemeanor.

A class 2 misdemeanor is punishable by no more than a $750 fine and/or four months in jail. A class 1 misdemeanor is punishable by no more than a $2,500 fine and/or six months in jail.

A class six felony, at the discretion of the court, based on the defendant’s record and circumstances, may, and often is, reduced to a class 1 misdemeanor.

On April 5, Etter took Rosco to the vet for a follow-up visit and an ultrasound on his eye, which apparently did not reveal as much information as hoped. Etter said Rosco’s left eye just looks like a marble.

Otherwise, Etter says Rosco, who is just one and a half years old, is doing really well. His right paw appears to be back to normal, and he seems interested in “chasing bunnies” again.

Investigators with the MCSO animal cruelty unit were scheduled to meet with Etter on Tuesday afternoon.

Ward has not yet been charged and repeated attempts to contact him at his listed number were unsuccessful.