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Newbury, Vt., Man Faces Cruelty Charge in Dog’s Shooting

  • Kane, a 7-year-old German shepherd who belonged to Amy Emerson, of Newbury, Vt., is shown with her daughter's dog, Koda, in an undated photograph. Kane was allegedly shot and killed after he became ensnared in a neighbor's hunting trap on Monday, Feb. 10, 2014. (Courtesy photograph)

    Kane, a 7-year-old German shepherd who belonged to Amy Emerson, of Newbury, Vt., is shown with her daughter's dog, Koda, in an undated photograph. Kane was allegedly shot and killed after he became ensnared in a neighbor's hunting trap on Monday, Feb. 10, 2014. (Courtesy photograph)

  • Amy Emerson of Newbury, Vt., found her German Shepherd Kane caught in a trap and shot in the head on the land of her neighbor Richard Martin Tuesday, February 11, 2014. Kane did not return home after leaving Emerson's land with her daughter's dog Koda on Monday night. <br/>(Valley News - James M. Patterson)

    Amy Emerson of Newbury, Vt., found her German Shepherd Kane caught in a trap and shot in the head on the land of her neighbor Richard Martin Tuesday, February 11, 2014. Kane did not return home after leaving Emerson's land with her daughter's dog Koda on Monday night.
    (Valley News - James M. Patterson)

  • Kane, a 7-year-old German shepherd who belonged to Amy Emerson, of Newbury, Vt., is shown with her daughter's dog, Koda, in an undated photograph. Kane was allegedly shot and killed after he became ensnared in a neighbor's hunting trap on Monday, Feb. 10, 2014. (Courtesy photograph)
  • Amy Emerson of Newbury, Vt., found her German Shepherd Kane caught in a trap and shot in the head on the land of her neighbor Richard Martin Tuesday, February 11, 2014. Kane did not return home after leaving Emerson's land with her daughter's dog Koda on Monday night. <br/>(Valley News - James M. Patterson)

Newbury, Vt. — Authorities have cited a Corey Hill Road man with animal cruelty and illegal trapping after he allegedly shot and killed a neighbor’s dog that had been snared by one of his hunting traps.

On Thursday, Vermont State Police cited Richard Martin, 45, on the misdemeanor animal cruelty charge in connection with the shooting death of the dog earlier in the week, according to Trooper Chuck Schulze.

Martin is scheduled to appear next month in Orange County Court.

Meanwhile, Amy Emerson, the dog’s owner, said she is devastated by the death of her 7-year-old German shepherd, Kane, who she said went missing Monday night. Emerson said she searched frantically for Kane on Tuesday, following tracks in the snow before she found him stuck in the trap with a bullet wound to his head.

“He murdered my kid. That’s my life,” said Emerson, 37, who shares a house with her boyfriend not far from Martin’s property. “I can’t fathom someone seeing a dog in a trap and shooting him in the head.”

The state Fish & Wildlife Department has also cited Martin on four separate counts of illegal trapping for allegedly setting traps out of season, according to a news release. Trapping on land is prohibited by Vermont law after Dec. 31 every year until the following fall.

Reached by phone on Thursday, Martin declined to comment.

Schulze said the shooting did not rise to the level of a felony charge as described in state statutes, in part, he said, because there is no evidence that the dog was tortured.

“(Martin is) basically saying he tried to get it out, he couldn’t and he ended up shooting it in the end. It’s basically instantaneous,” Schulze said.

Schulze said Martin claimed the dog was acting aggressively and he “didn’t know what else to do.” But Schulze said he had other options, such as calling police or Fish & Wildlife officials. Schulze noted that the dog could have been “pretty wound up” just from being stuck in the trap.

“The bottom line is there were other solutions to what he did,” Schulze said. “It wasn’t if the dog was aggressive or not. It’s just that there were other courses of action.”

Martin has been cited by Fish & Wildlife for trapping violations before, but does not have a record with state police, Schulze said. He faces up to one year in prison or up to a $2,000 fine, or both, if convicted on the animal cruelty charge alone.

In interviews over the phone and at her home on Wednesday, Emerson described a panicked search for Kane, who was a puppy when she bought him from a breeder nearly eight years ago and who she described as a friendly, loving dog who never caused problems for neighbors.

Emerson said she let Kane and her daughter’s 9-month-old Australian cattle dog, Koda, out of the house around 9 p.m. Monday night, as she often does. The two usually roam around the property and respond promptly when called, she said.

But when Emerson’s daughter returned home from work about half an hour later, she told Emerson only Koda was waiting at the door to be let inside.

“So I hollered to (Kane) a couple of times and he didn’t come back,” Emerson said. “He’s not a big roamer but he has certainly wandered off for an hour or two, so it wasn’t a big deal, and I know that all our neighbors know that he’s my dog.”

Emerson said she went to sleep expecting to be awakened overnight by Kane at the door. But when she woke up at 5 a.m. on Tuesday, he still was nowhere to be found. She went to work, asking friends and neighbors to search the neighborhood for the dog, but when he still had not been located by noon, she left work early to conduct a search of her own.

With Koda at her side, Emerson followed the two dogs’ tracks from the previous night in fresh snowfall. The path meandered around the couple’s property before entering the rural dirt road and going partway up a snowmobile trail, she said. It appeared the dogs then got back on the road and continued up the following driveway, where Martin lives in a small dwelling past his uncle’s home.

Emerson is familiar with Martin’s uncle’s house, she said, as her daughter’s father is Martin’s cousin. But Emerson said she had never seen Martin’s house, which she described as a small shack. As she approached cautiously, around 3 p.m., she said, Koda suddenly “yiped and flipped over.” Emerson saw that he had been snared by a leg trap used for catching animals like coyotes, not far from the dwelling.

“I just knew right then that (Kane) had to be right there, so then I released (Koda) from that trap and I just ran over there” and found Kane nearby in a different leg trap, Emerson said, speaking through tears. She released his two toes, the only part of his body that had been caught, she said.

His body felt warm, Emerson said, and at first she thought he was alive but lethargic from the cold. She described “petting him and petting him, and then I saw there was blood running down his face. …

“So I just held him, and I just wanted him to breathe and wanted him to be alive,” she said.

Emerson struggled to carry Kane’s 80-pound body down the driveway, with the younger dog pawing at him and whining, sometimes climbing on Kane’s body when Emerson paused, she said. She called Vermont State Police, and as she was on the phone, Martin returned in his vehicle, she said.

“And I was like, ‘How could you do this?’ ” Emerson said.

Emerson rejected the possibility that Kane was a nuisance or aggressive, saying the dog was easygoing and well-known by neighbors. Both dogs were wearing collars and tags Monday night, Emerson said.

Newbury Constable Glen Godfrey, who also serves as the town’s animal control officer, said he has never received complaints about any dogs belonging to Emerson.

“We have a lot of land so generally they just run out in the backyard, and you holler at them and they’re there within a second,” Emerson said of Kane and Koda. “They never really go anywhere, which is how I knew I could follow the tracks. … All the guy had to do was release the trap. He didn’t have to shoot him, and he was close enough to release the trap if he was close enough to shoot him.”

In the news release, Fish & Wildlife Maj. Dennis Reinhardt called the shooting “very unfortunate.”

“Vermont has strict trapping regulations on the books, and trappers are generally skilled at selecting trap sites that do not have the potential to harm pets,” he said. “On the very rare occasion that a dog does get caught in a trap, the trapper is almost always able to release the animal unharmed.”

Emerson said the past few days have been heartbreaking.

“I feel like I walked onto a murder scene, finding my animal shot,” she said. “He was freezing and then someone shot him, and I feel horrible that I didn’t go looking for him the night before.”

Emerson had Kane cremated on Wednesday. Later that day, standing out front of her home, she held Kane’s blood-stained collar in her hands. Koda played energetically nearby, sometimes chasing his tail in circles, and sometimes playing with a deer leg, which Emerson said Koda had brought back with him from Martin’s property on Monday night.

The young dog “hasn’t eaten and just keeps sniffing around my house,” Emerson said. “It’s just, I feel like my kid is missing from my life.”

Maggie Cassidy can be reached at mcassidy@vnews.com or 603-727-3220.