Animal Law

Death of pet dog mistaken for wolf reveals loophole in state poaching law

When a hunter kills game out of season, there’s a legal price to pay for poaching.

But there’s no comparable law applicable to the accidental shooting of pets, Montana authorities told a man whose brown and white dog was mistaken for a wolf and shot to death by a hunter as Layne Spence was cross-country skiing on public land with his three malamutes.

Spence now hopes to change that situation, hiring a lawyer to sue the unidentified hunter and possibly the state Department of Fish, Wildlife and Parks as well, according to the Great Falls Tribune and the Missoulian.

Meanwhile, state Rep. Ellie Boldman Hill, D-Missoula, told the Tribune she is working with state prosecutors on a law to close the legal loophole. One possibility is to expand poaching prohibitions to include pets. Another is to change animal cruelty law to include such hunting accidents.

“I don’t want attention on me,” Spence told the newspaper. “I want it on my dog, so this doesn’t happen to someone else. When I said this was like losing one of my kids, someone commented I should know what it’s like to actually lose a child. Well, I do. My daughter was killed by a drunk driver in 1987.”

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