2012-03-29 / Local & State

Pa. Farmer Gets Prison Time For Shooting His Dog

DOYLESTOWN, Pa. (AP) – A southeastern Pennsylvania farmer with a prior felony conviction was sentenced Thursday to a mininum of nearly a year in the county prison for shooting his dog after it attacked the neighbors’ pets.

Gary Kirk of Newtown Township was sentenced to 11 1/2 to 23 months in the Bucks County prison.

Kirk pleaded guilty in July to animal cruelty and a weapons offense that stemmed from his felony drug conviction 20 years ago. He avoided a possible fiveyear state prison sentence for unlawfully possessing a firearm.

Judge Wallace Bateman said the case was so unusual it warranted a departure from sentencing guidelines.

“You should have taken the dog to a vet,” Bateman said. “If you had, you wouldn't be standing here.”

Neighbors called police last March after hearing a gunshot on Kirk's property. Officers found the dog nearby. It was shot in the head and neck but was still alive. The dog was later euthanized.

Kirk initially denied firing the rifle, then admitted he was trying to kill the dog because he believed it was his obligation since the dog was attacking other animals.

“Whatever his intentions were, he failed miserably, to the point where it became cruelty to animals,” Assistant District Attorney Lindsay Vaughan said. “This was not a humane death.”

A fifth-generation farmer, Kirk said in court Thursday that putting down sick or aggressive animals was part of farming life.

His attorney, Ray McHugh, showed the judge a psychologist’s report stating that Kirk’s lifestyle was “at odds with suburban living” and Kirk did not enjoy shooting the dog but believed it was his responsibility.

“This was a family pet,” McHugh said. “It was upsetting for him to do this. He was traumatized by it.”

After the judge was told about all the planting that must occur this time of year, he granted Kirk a threeweek delay before reporting to prison.

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