December 1, 2011

Hunter from Westbrook accused of killing dog

Steve Barrows says he mistook the Siberian husky for a coyote, and the owner says he has apologized.

By Dennis Hoey dhoey@pressherald.com
Staff Writer

STANDISH - The Maine Warden Service says it has charged a Westbrook man with shooting a dog in Standish on the last day of this year's deer hunting season.

click image to enlarge

Niko, an 11-month-old Siberian husky owned by Amanda Barrett and her family, was shot Saturday in Standish after slipping out of his harness. A Westbrook man has been charged.

Courtesy photo

Edie Smith, spokeswoman for the Department of Inland Fisheries and Wildlife, confirmed Wednesday that Steve Barrows, 50, of Westbrook was issued a summons Monday by Sgt. Tim Spahr on a charge of shooting a domesticated animal.

Game wardens say Barrows shot and killed the Siberian husky on Saturday, a short time after the dog slipped out of its harness and ran into woods near its home on Milt Brown Road.

Smith said the charge is considered a civil violation that could draw a fine or jail time, depending on the outcome of the game warden's investigation, which is continuing.

Contacted at his home Wednesday night, Barrows said he did not want to speak with reporters about the shooting. He expressed anger at the way the media has covered the incident but declined to give his side of the story.

Amanda Barrett, one of the owners of the 11-month-old dog named Niko, said, "We want (Barrows) to have his firearm taken away. ... He left Niko's body in the woods. He could have called the Warden Service. Our family is just really upset."

Under Maine law, it is illegal to shoot a domesticated animal such as a dog or a cat. Smith said the Warden Service urges deer hunters to identify their targets before they shoot.

She said no further details about the shooting could be released because the investigation is not complete.

Saturday was the last day of Maine's season for hunting deer with firearms, she said. The shooting was the third death this season in which a family pet was shot by a deer hunter.

In early November in Orrington, the Maine Warden Service charged Seth White, 53, of Orrington with shooting a domesticated animal. A German shepherd was running loose in the woods when White shot and killed the animal, the Warden Service says.

Also last month, in the Oxford County town of Magalloway, wardens charged Christopher Salatino of Dixfield with shooting a domesticated animal. Salatino was deer hunting when he shot and killed a dog that he thought was a coyote.

The dog, also a German shepherd, was in the woods with its owner, Cindy Williams, a forester from Errol, N.H.

Jack Freitas, Standish's animal control officer, assisted wardens with their investigation of Saturday's shooting. He said Niko's body was found in woods off Route 25.

"The dog had been shot once in the torso," said Freitas, who secured the scene and waited for wardens to arrive.

Freitas said he is familiar with the family that owned Niko. He said the dog somehow slipped out of its harness, which is why it was running free in the woods.

"They are extremely responsible dog owners," Freitas said. "I'm the animal control officer, and sometimes my dog gets loose."

Barrett said Niko slipped out of its harness late Saturday morning and ran into the woods. She and other members of her family went after the dog but turned back for fear that they could be shot by hunters.

"A few minutes later, we heard gunshots," she said.

They searched the woods for Niko again on Sunday, without success. Finally, the family put up posters around town showing a photograph of the dog.

A logger, whose name was unavailable, went to Barrett's home on Monday and told the family he had gotten the license plate number of the hunter who shot Niko.

According to Barrett, the logger or one of his assistants saw the shooting -- a claim the Warden Service could not substantiate.

Barrett said Barrows called her family on Tuesday night to apologize.

Her aunt, Melissa West, said she spoke with Barrows for a few minutes.

West said Barrows told her he thought Niko was a "coy dog" -- another term for coyote.

"He sounded very sincere and upset by what happened. He apologized a number of times," West said. "But I told him the least he could have done was to have moved Niko's body out of the woods and notified the game wardens."

Barrett and West said wardens told the family that Niko was shot from no more than 15 feet away.

They also said that Barrows was deer hunting with a companion and that the hunters had shot a buck and were tracking it when the dog was shot.

Staff Writer Dennis Hoey can be contacted at 791-6365 or at:

dhoey@pressherald.com

 

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