Hunter’s ‘horrible mistake’

The man charged over the fatal shooting of a family’s pet husky near Yallourn North has escaped conviction.

The 35 year-old pleaded guilty in the Latrobe Valley Magistrates Court on Thursday to shooting the seven month-old Siberian husky and using a firearm on private property without the consent of the owner or occupier.

‘Peppa’ was shot dead on 25 April on the outer region of a pine forest along Hunter Road, managed by Hancock Victoria Plantations, while she was out of sight of her owners.

Rebecca Grant, partner Jason and two-and-a-half year-old son Jacob had pulled over on the side of the road to let Peppa out for a rest stop.

The court heard the accused left his home early that morning with his two sons to hunt deer in Yallourn North.

While travelling along Hunter Road he saw the dog run out onto the road and back into the pine plantation.

He admitted to shooting the dog once in the neck as he believed it to be a wild dog.

Magistrate Brian Clifford said a Siberian husky was “hardly likely to be feral”, to which defence lawyer Duncan Robertson replied “a canine is a canine”.

Mr Robertson cited a media report which highlighted a feral dog problem in the Yallourn North area.

“Farmers have lost entire flocks of sheep,” he said.

Mr Robertson described the shooting as a “horrible, horrible mistake”.

He produced a map which defined hunting boundaries, which he said had changed.

Mr Robertson told the court his client had made a “geographical mistake”.

He said the accused was “extremely remorseful” and had been emotionally affected by the incident and subsequent public reaction.

The court heard, the number plates of the accused’s vehicle had been posted on the internet, forcing him to register for new numbers which were also posted online.

Mr Robertson said some posts made on facebook websites about the incident amounted to death threats against the accused and his children were getting bullied at school.

The court heard when interviewed by police and asked whether he saw a collar on the dog, the accused said “I didn’t see any collar on it at all, I’m really shocked about that, can you please tell them I’m sorry”.

The court heard he had held a gun licence for 20 years.

His firearms were seized and licence suspended during the police investigation.

The prosecution did not seek forfeiture of his firearms or licence in court and it is understood the licence will now be reviewed by the Victoria Police Licensing and Regulation division.

In handing down his decision, Mr Clifford took into account the accused’s guilty plea and the fact he had not previously been charged with an offence.

“I’m satisfied that in the area feral dogs are a cause of havoc for farmers,” Mr Clifford said.

“I accept you are remorseful, however, you have killed a family pet.”

The accused was fined $1000, without conviction.

On Friday, Rebecca Grant expressed her disappointment with the result.

“We feel as though justice to Peppa and our family has not been served,” Ms Grant said.

“We feel the whole point of what we were trying to achieve to stop people shooting in these areas has been a waste of time and a precedent has now been set that people can now go shoot wherever they want.”