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Hearing set for suspected dog shooter

Charles Dehler has been cited for animal cruelty related to October incident

by: Photo Courtesy of DEBBIE WHALEY - Zuma, an eight-month-old Rhodesian Ridgeback belong to Debbie Whaley of Prineville, was shot and killed by a neighbor in October 2007.

Six months after her eight-month-old puppy was shot and killed on a neighbor's property, Debbie Whaley still wonders why anyone would kill such a friendly animal.
   A hearing for Whaley's neighbor, Charles Dehler, who had admitted to shooting her dog, is scheduled for April 2. Dehler was cited for animal cruelty on Jan. 1, 2008, according to a Crook County Sheriff's Office report. He was not able to comment at the advice of his attorney.
   Thinking back to the day last October that Zuma, her Rhodesian Ridgeback, was shot dead, Whaley's voice gives away the attachment she felt toward the pup.
   "...it was pretty awful," she said, trailing off. "This was an almost eight-month-old dog that I had waited years to get and he was gone."
   She was watching Zuma and her brother's dog play on her five-acre pasture northwest of Prineville and for some reason, she glanced away for a minute. When she looked back, the two young dogs were gone. She recalls a breeze blowing up from Dehler's property, and figured the dogs, being hounds, had caught scent of something.
   She was barefoot and ran as far as she could calling them, but gave up and went back to the barn for her four wheeler and took off in the direction they had gone. She made it as far as the barbed wire fence separating her property from Dehler's, when her brother's dog, obviously spooked by something, came tearing toward her.
   Sensing something wasn't right, she returned home to put her brother's dog in a kennel and got her husband, who went on his own to Dehler's place, about one-half mile away. Meanwhile, she waited at home for her puppy to return. He never did.
   According to her husband, Dehler met him at the front gate and said bluntly, "I heard you calling him, but he's dead. I shot him."
   Her husband asked: "Why would you shoot a puppy?"
   Dehler's reply: "What did you expect me to do? He was on my place. Keep him at home."
   Lying on his side in Dehler's driveway, the dog had two bullet holes near the back of his ribs and the bullets, fired from a Ruger .223 rifle, had exploded through his chest.
   "He [Dehler] said [the dog] was charging at him, but he was shot from the back, laying down, facing home," Whaley said.
   In the Sheriff's report, Dehler had also said the dog was trying to attack him - that it "came charging at him" - but this seems unlikely considering Whaley's description of the puppy.
   "The dog had been evaluated by behaviorists as a non-aggressive and friendly animal," she said. The puppy stood around 26 inches tall at the shoulders and weighed about 80 pounds.
   Whaley, who breeds dogs as a hobby, mentioned Dehler had never contacted her to report a problem with her animals.
   This case, however, wasn't Whaley's - or other neighbors' - first experience with animal cruelty in the area. In January of last year, another of her dogs was shot and received bullet fragments through its chest and stomach. In that case, the dog recovered.
   Other people in the area have also had dogs "disappear," she said, and two were shot: one through the ear and the other through the chest. They also survived. It is not known for sure who shot the animals.
   "After that, I was real careful that the dogs didn't go anywhere and I watched them all the time," Whaley said of the first incident. "I didn't have any problems."
   She now keeps her dogs in a pen.
   Oregon state law allows owners of livestock to take lethal action against any dog that "kills, wounds, or injures any livestock not belonging to the master of such dog." The law considers such a dog as a "public nuisance" that "may be killed immediately by any person." It also allows for the killing of a dog that is found "chasing or feeding upon the warm carcasses of livestock." However, according to Whaley, there are no livestock present on Dehler's property.
   District Attorney Gary Williams said that people in Crook County have historically been very conscientious of other people's animals and when they are justified by law to kill dogs, they usually choose not to.
   "They usually talk to police or the neighbor and use good judgment and discretion," he said. "They've typically gone out of their way to find other means rather than killing the animal."