The fatal shooting of two pet short-haired pointers that cavorted on a 100-acre Chester County farm has prompted outrage and a quest for justice.
The dogs were found shot "between the eyes at close range" on Sunday near railroad tracks along the Brandywine Creek in Pennsbury Township, Rich Britton, a spokesman for the Chester County SPCA, said yesterday. Their bodies were placed tail to tail, with their backs to the tracks.
"The death was grotesque enough; the placement was very, very strange," he said.
Britton said the bodies of the dogs - a 11/2-year-old German shorthaired pointer named Emma and a 2-year-old mix of the same breed called Luna - were found between 1 and 2 p.m. Sunday afternoon by a neighbor walking in the woods near Brintons Bridge Road.
The pets had been reported missing earlier in the day from a family farm in Pocopson Township, about three miles northwest "as the crow flies" from where they were found, Britton said.
The owners have not been identified publicly.
The deaths have shocked and galvanized workers at the SPCA shelter. "We're absolutely committed to getting to the bottom of this," said Conrad E. Muhly, the SPCA's board president.
Three animal-protection officers from the shelter are pursuing the case.
Britton said the maximum penalty for the crime, misdemeanor animal cruelty, is two years in prison and a $1,000 fine. The officers can file such charges themselves. State police at the Avondale barracks said yesterday that they would assist if requested.
Such a penalty is insufficient in this case, said Melissa Morrill, the assistant horse trainer at Bent Brook Farm, less than a half-mile from where the dogs were found.
Morrill, who described the pastoral neighborhood as "on edge," said, "I just hope and pray they find out who did this."
A necropsy - an animal autopsy - was being conducted yesterday at the University of Pennsylvania Veterinary School of Medicine's New Bolton Center in Kennett Square. Britton said the exam could yield information such as the caliber of the gun.
Investigators would like to speak to the owner of a red Ford F-150 pickup truck with a cap, Britton said. It was seen parked beside Brintons Bridge Road with lights flashing sometime between 1 and 3 p.m. on Sunday, he said.
A $500 reward is being offered for information leading to the arrest and conviction of those responsible for the crime, Britton said. Anyone with information should call 610-692-6113, Ext. 213, he said.
Luna, "a very special dog with a good temperament," was acquired when she was eight weeks old, Britton said. Emma came to the farm a year ago and was "very close with Luna," Britton said.
"There were no issues with the neighbors," he said.
Patte Titus, breed-education director for the German shorthaired pointer Club of America Inc., said she believed the animals, because of their friendly nature, were likely lured into a vehicle and then killed elsewhere.
"They would stay together. They were probably running mates, buddies," she said.
Robin Young, secretary for the club's eastern branch, described the breed as "high-energy and eager to please." The dogs would not be apt to challenge a stranger, she said.
"They are not bred to be guard dogs, like a German shepherd," she said from her home in North Jersey. "They're bred to be hunting companions. They make fine family pets, and are good with children."