Chester County dog shootings spark uproar

UPDATE - Inquirer reports: Sheep farmer charged with animal cruelty, reckless endangerment for killing the two dogs, one shot point blank in the head and the other shot while it was fleeing.

The killing of two young Bernese Mountain dogs at the hands of a sheep farmer in Chester County has caused an uproar that has spread far beyond the county lines.

On February 12 the dogs, Argus and Fiona, escaped from their yard in Chester Springs when a tree branch fell on the fence and ended up in a pen where neighbor Gabriel Pilotti keeps his sheep.

Pilotti got his shotgun and killed the dogs. In a Facebook posting the dogs' owner Mary Bock said the whole incident - from the time the dogs got out to when they were shot - took no more than 15 minutes.

Worse, say the dogs' owners, Pilotti left a menacing message on a neighbor's answering machine. "Two shots two more dogs."

The district attorney's office initially said Pilotti was within in his right under Pennsylvania's dog law to shoot the dog for disturbing his livestock.

Experts in the state dog law, however, pointed out that a farmer only has the right to shoot a dog if that dog is "pursuing" "wounding" or "attacking" the farm animal. If the dog is simply found among animals he must detain the dog. 

There is hope that there will be an announcement from the district attorney's office as early as Tuesday that animal charges will be filed against Pilotti.

Meanwhile, the public, reacting angrily with hundreds of posts on Facebook and blogs, has ralled around the family and their lost dogs, demanding justice for Argus and Fiona.

More details from my colleague Carolyn Davis here.