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.
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.