Saturday, February 23, 2013

Justice For Argus and Fiona Has Finally Arrived

Photo of Fiona and Argus: Delco Times

On February 12, two Bernese Mountain dogs were shot to death after wandering out of their yard and into a neighbor's in the West Vincent Township of Chester Springs, Pennsylvania. Their names were Argus who was two-years old and Fiona who was a one-year old.

The reason this happened was that a large tree branch had fallen and damaged the fence by creating a hole that allowed the dogs to escape. They were gone only about 15 minutes, when the Bock family found out that their neighbor, Gabriel Pilotti shot the dogs on sight in fear that they were going to harm his sheep. They were devastated but Mr. Pilloti was the type to "shoot first and ask questions later."

Gabe called his neighbor, who was bothered that he was bragging about what he did. It didn't help that he referred about the situation in a cold and callous manner when speaking to Bill Bock, about the incident. Considering that in Pennsylvania, there is a law that states that an owner can shoot dogs to protect their livestock, he was not charged at the time. Outraged by this law loophole, the Bocks started a Facebook Group called Justice for Argus and Fiona.

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Now, an interesting development has happened in this story. The man who shot the dogs is charged with two counts animal cruelty. Initially, Pilotti had said that the dogs were chasing after his sheep and he shot them in defense. However, as police conducted a follow-up investigation, it turned out that Argus was approaching him in a slow manner, with no malice intended and shot directly in the head. Fiona, the other dog retreated and was shot as she was running away to safety.

District Attorney Tom Hogan, had determined that their was no justification for this to occur. The type of the weapon made a difference. Pilotti had used a buckshot rifle. This type of rifle required each bullet to be loaded individually. Therefore, it was determined he had shot these dogs with intent to kill instead of merely protecting his sheep. The DA brought him up on two charges of animal cruelty and one charge of reckless endangerment of a human being due to the fact a neighbor was passing by the property and was in the line of fire when the incident happened. Earlier this morning, Gabriel Pilotti issued a statement of mea culpa, stating that he overreacted from a previous incident that happened a year ago in which he killed two pit bulls who were attacking a herd of sheep.

About Bernese Mountain Dogs

Fiona and Argus were the beloved family pets of the Bock family. They had five children from ages 5 to 11 who adored them. Bernese Mountain dogs are known for their calm, gentle and loving nature and make excellent dogs for families. Their origin is from the mountains of Switzerland. They are known as gentle giants because they grow to be at least 70 pounds (39 kg) in size. They average about 25 inches in height (63.5cm).They are known for their lustrous coat and regal beauty. They are considered working dogs since they were primarily bred to herd. Bernese Mountain dogs are ranked 33rd of the 175 breeds listed for the AKC. Because of their size, they tend to mature later than many of their counterpart breeds and maintain their puppyhood longer.

What Lies Ahead

While most are sympathetic to the plight of the family, there is a strong contingent of farmers who feel that Pilotti was justified in what he did. This story has intensified the relations between rural farmers and suburban families in the Chester County area. The only consolation is that the family will know that their dogs received justice for the loss of their pets.

Let's Discuss!

The one thing that's apparent about this is that the farmer enjoyed shooting his gun. Maybe he has regrets, but he took joy in the fact that he was a good shot. I think the prosecutor in this case did the right thing because the dogs were innocent. He knows that and knows that he was wrong. His apology was only to get a lesser sentence.


  1. I think that the owners share a HUGE part of the responsibility in this. I have a HUGE great dane that I love DEARLY, but she relies on ME to keep her safe. The family knew about the hole in the fence, acording to one article it says that the "normally stayed in their own yard." What does that mean? The owners of the dogs should have taken better care of them.

    If my dog gets out of my yard and someone who doesn't know her shoots her because they felt that their own family or pets are in danger, then SHAME ON ME as the owner. It is MY RESPONSIBILITY to keep my dog safe.

    1. Hi. Thank you for your perspective but I can only agree to a point. From what I read, the reports led me to believe that it was a recent event. It does make a difference if that's the case. However, these dogs were only gone 15 minutes. It would have been different if they were hit by a car, but the man had a choice. He could have waited to see if the sheep were in danger but his first move was to get his gun. He didn't assess them to see if they were growling or didn't even make a loud noise to scare them away. This was a man who enjoyed using his gun and didn't think twice if these dogs were strays or belonged to a family.

      It is rumored that he didn't own the sheep legally. Yes, the owners were partly responsible, but they also tried to find the dogs right away. That should count for something. The owners will be regretting the fact that there was a hole in the fence that made it for their pets to wander off, but are not responsible for a gun loving farmer's actions in response to that.

  2. I don't think based on the sketchy details that shooting these dogs was necessary. With that said, being a farmer, the law does not need to be changed. Dog owners are responsible for their dogs. I have dogs, and I take full and complete responsibility for them, knowing full well that if they get out it is MY FAULT. I am also a farmer that needs to be able to protect my livestock. Our livestock are of course first a way we make a living. But we also have children that consider baby calves and piglets members of our family too. Obviously any rational person would consider other methods of dealing with the situation first, but rest assured it is within my legal right to use lethal force if necessary. It's an unfortunate situation, but I assure you if you saw pictures of what "pets" can do to sheep, calves, pigs, chickens you would be disgusted. And quite frankly I am sickened by 95% of these dog "lovers" and the things they are saying about the things that should be done to farmers and ranchers should they protect THEIR animals on THEIR land. What happened to mutual respect and caring?

    1. Hello and thank you for your message. It's good to get your side of things on this. I totally agree with that statement about dog owners being responsible. I've always believed that there are no bad dogs just bad owners.If you are protecting your livestock that's one thing. However, these dogs weren't hurting their livestock, they were shepherd dogs and trying to herd the livestock.

      The problem wasn't that the guy had a gun but how he used it. What he did wasn't rational. That's what makes this story so upsetting. The dog was moving in a slow non-aggressive way towards him because he was going to greet him. He shot the other when she was running away from him and his sheep. The dog knew she was in danger. He didn't wait for her to run away, but wanted her dead. I'm all for protecting what's yours however, Pilotti himself stated that he overreacted because of a similar situation that happened with pit bulls a year before.

      As a dog owner, I have to deal with the possibility of coyotes coming in and possibly attacking one of my dogs. I may not be a farmer but can still understand how farmers need to protect animals. When you see any animal attacked, it is heartbreaking. In the end, it's about mutual respect and understanding. Hopefully this story will make people more attuned to that.

  3. What is this about him not owning the sheep legally? I'm not familiar with the area so I don't know the zoning. I will say that even if he lives in an area where it wouldn't be permitted, depending how long he has lived there he could be grandfathered in. It's a sad situation.

    1. To be honest, the bigger this story gets, the more it can get misreported. I can only go off of what I've read that has been repeated in various news outlets or first-hand accounts of people who lived in the vicinity of the property. I totally agree, it's a sad situation. Thank you for writing in.



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