Tricia Kreiser said she still reaches down to pet a dog that isn’t there anymore.
A Lebanon County family was left reeling in December after their beloved German Shepherd mix was killed by a member of a nearby rifle range.
Tricia Kreiser was getting ready to go to her job as warehouse manager when she let her 9-year-old dog, Tucker, out just after 8 a.m. on Dec. 16. A few minutes later, she was looking at her phone when she heard the booming noise of a gunshot.
That didn’t phase her — the Kreisers have lived next to the Jonestown Fish and Game Association and its rifle range for four years. Members of the association are allowed to start shooting at 8 a.m.
“I never would have thought this was an issue,” Tricia Kreiser said. “I hear guns all the time, it doesn’t phase me.”
But later that day she would find that one of the club’s members had mistaken her dog for a coyote and shot him.
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The incident has shaken the Kreisers, making them scared to let their other dog or even their grandchildren run around in their yard. Tucker was a huge part the family, Kreiser said, and there are no words to describe how gentle he was.
“He just touched your heart,” Kreiser said. “We have had so many animals over the years, but he was a special one.”
As lifelong hunters, the Kreisers don’t have a problem with the practice. But they do have a problem when hunters don’t act responsibly, and they hope people will take their ordeal as a lesson in hunting and shooting safety.
“He shot directly towards my house,” Kreiser said. “This makes me wonder if I have to worry about some other rogue hunter out there.”
Shooting death of dog leads to safety concerns
As she was about to head to work, Kreiser went outside to call Tucker back in. He didn’t come, and didn’t respond when she called him for the next few minutes. Kreiser had to leave, but she let her husband, Larry Kreiser, know as he came back home that she couldn’t find Tucker.
Larry Kreiser spent the morning searching for Tucker, calling his name and even going to the Jonestown Fish and Game Association to see if one of the members had seen him. Distracted at work, Tricia Kreiser came home at lunch to help search.
As she was pulling out of a nearby trailer park a board member at the club pulled up nearby and told her she needed to come back.
“I knew that they were going to tell me that Tucker was dead, but I thought someone hit him and they found him on the road or something,” Kreiser said. “Not in a million years did I expect them to tell me what he did.”
Kreiser said the Jonestown Fish and Game Association member, William White, told them he shot Tucker after seeing him through the woods and mistaking him for a coyote. Kreiser called police to report the incident, and it was investigated by the Game Commission.
White declined to comment when reached by the Lebanon Daily News.
Kreiser said the incident has unnerved them and made them feel unsafe in their own home. Their land includes a pasture and a strip of woods separating their land from the Fish and Game Association.
Their grandkids often play in the fields, and their 10-year-old granddaughter, who practically grew up with Tucker, would run around with him outside. They’re scared of letting both the grandkids and their other dog run around in the field.
“Now when I hear the guns, I sit there and think ‘Oh, do I have to worry about this?'” Kreiser said.
A member of the Jonestown Fish and Game Association declined to comment about the incident and did not respond to an inquiry about safety protocols when reached by the Lebanon Daily News.
Lessons to be learned
The Game Commission cited White for unlawful taking/possession of game or wildlife, damage to personal property and for unlawful hunting in a safety zone for shooting within 150 yards of the Kreiser’s home.
Game Commission information and education supervisor Dustin Stoner said a safety zone is a protected area around a dwelling or structure that could be occupied by people. When hunting with a firearm, hunters can’t shoot or pursue game when they or the animal is within 150 yards of the structure. When using archery equipment, the safety zone is reduced to 50 yards.
Stoner noted this incident was unusual.
“If you’re unsure of positive identification, you should not shoot at an animal that you’re not sure is both a legal game animal and in a safe situation that you can use a firearm,” Stoner said.
Although the Kreisers know they can’t get Tucker back, they hope this can be an educational experience. The family are all avid hunters, and Kreiser said incidents such as these can tarnish how hunters are viewed.
“I was always taught to know where you’re shooting at, and to not shoot towards houses,” Larry Kreiser said.
At the end of the day, the Kreisers are just grieving the absence of Tucker. Tricia Kreiser said the fact that Tucker was viewed as property under the law, rather than part of her family, is frustrating.
“He was a part of my family,” Kreiser said. “He was a huge part of my family, and at night I still reach down to pet a dog that isn’t there.”
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