Scott L. Haddock, Supervising Attorney
Potential Crimes and Affirmative Defense of Wildlife on Private
Property; Client File 1234: John Dunham
On September 11, 2011, our client, John Dunham, shot and killed three trespassing hunting dogs on his property. He then used his dog as a deadly weapon to injure Jesse Hester, owner of the hunting dogs. Dunham raises an affirmative defense that he was merely protecting wildlife on his property and possessed a legal right to do so. Pursuant to my research, Dunham will most likely be charged with three crimes and unable to raise an affirmative defense to protection of wildlife on private property.
I. Potential Crimes of Dunham
A. RCW 9.08.070 Pet Animals- Unlawful Killing
The issue is whether a defendant can lawfully kill a trespassing dog on his private property. The legislature has made it clear that a person who "willfully" or "recklessly" kills another's pet animal shall be guilty of a gross misdemeanor and a mandatory fine of not less than five hundred dollars per pet animal. RCW 9.08.070(1)(c). A gross misdemeanor is punishable by imprisonment for a maximum sentence of three hundred sixty-four days or a fine not exceeding five thousand dollars, or both imprisonment and fine. RCW 9A.20.020. The unlawful killing of a pet animal and the finding of the mental state of "willfulness" or "recklessness" is sufficient to violate this statue. Property owner's right to exclude trespassing hunters from his property did not create a right to kill hunting dogs momentarily crossing his land. State v. Long, 98 Wash. App. 669, 991 P.2d 102 (2000). Angered by the alleged trespass on his property, Dunham shot dead all three dogs. Dunham took willful, intentional and reckless action to kill trespassers. Therefore, it is most likely Dunham will be charged with unlawful...
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