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After fatal shooting of German shepherd, Tunbridge man pleads guilty, donates to charity

  • Steve Mortillo with his dog, Scout, in a photograph he posted on Facebook on Tuesday. Photo: courtesy of Steve Mortillo

Valley News Staff Writer
Published: 7/5/2022 9:54:30 PM
Modified: 7/5/2022 9:51:51 PM

CHELSEA — A Tunbridge man will make a financial contribution to a nonprofit that trains service dogs for veterans as part of his guilty plea in the fatal shooting of a German shepherd in Tunbridge this spring.

Damon Dyer pleaded guilty to a charge of cruelty to animals (fatal) in Orange Superior Court in Chelsea on June 29, nine weeks after he shot an 11-year-old German shepherd named Scout at a baiting pit in a field off Russell Road.

Scout belonged to a nearby married couple, both Iraq War veterans, who had let her out for a routine break at 5 p.m. only to see her never return home.

Dyer, 31, was sentenced to one to three months, all suspended, and placed on probation for six months, according to Vermont state court records.

He was also ordered to participate in a restorative justice program, which includes making a $500 donation to Hollis, N.H.-based Operation Delta Dog, a nonprofit that rescues homeless dogs and trains them to be service dogs for veterans with post-traumatic stress disorder, Orange County State’s Attorney Dickson Corbett said.

“In this particular case, an important goal for the state was making efforts to restore the victim’s sense of safety and belonging and justice in their neighborhood and to acknowledge the specific nature of the harms that had been done,” Corbett said via email on Tuesday.

According to the probable cause affidavit filed in support of the charge against Dyer, a Vermont game warden officer was called to investigate an incident involving an owner finding his dog shot dead in Tunbridge on April 23.

The dog’s owner, Steve Mortillo, had been searching the area for his missing dog for several days when he found her about 400 hundred yards from his home, shot in the head and “laying dead next to a carcass pile which contained a dead cow and a dead pig,” said the affidavit prepared by Warden Jeffrey Whipple.

Whipple asked Mortillo at the scene to return home to retrieve a blanket so that Scout could be wrapped for transport.

After Mortillo was out of sight, Dyer approached Whipple and identified himself as the farm manager and informed the warden that he had shot the dog because “the dog was chasing cattle,” according to the affidavit.

But that explanation did not hold up, the warden said in a sworn statement.

“It was later determined that the dog was not chasing cattle and Dyer shot the dog while it was at the carcass pile,” Whipple wrote.

After he shot Scout, Dyer “identified the animal as a domestic dog” but he “did not see a collar on the dog and assumed it to be a stray,” according to Whipple’s affidavit.

Mortillo took to the Lost and Found Pets of the Upper Valley Facebook group the day after Scout had gone missing for assistance in finding her.

Mortillo told the Valley News that he and his wife — he a veteran who served in the Army, his wife as an officer in the Marines — adopted Scout from a German shepherd rescue mission in Maryland when she was 1 year old.

She was named Scout, Mortillo said, because he had been a cavalry scout during his military service.

“We were with her for 10 years. She played an important role in our lives. She helped me to readjust to civilian life,” Mortillo said at the time.

For Dyer, however, the consequences of the shooting went beyond a suspended sentence and making amends to Scout’s owners.

Three weeks after he was charged with animal cruelty, the Sharon Selectboard voted to suspend Dyer as the town’s animal control officer on the grounds that the charges undermined his authority in the position.

Dyer, who resigned after the suspension, had been appointed to the part-time job only in March.

In the aftermath of the shooting emotions ran high on social media, but on May 10 Dyer posted on his Facebook page: “People who know me, know animals are my life …” Dyer’s post received 168 comments, the vast majority in support and defense.

Corbett, the state’s attorney, said the nonprofit to which Dyer is contributing was the choice of Scout’s family and that “additional components of the restorative-justice program will be determined by the restorative-justice panel that participates in the case. Orange County Restorative Justice Center will be the organization that convenes the panel.”

Michael Shane, Dyer’s court-appointed attorney, did not respond to messages seeking comment as of press time.

Contact John Lippman at jippman@vnews.com.


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