Saturday, September 19, 2009

Trial Set for Officer Michael Wooton Accused of Shooting Neighbor's Dog

A judge has ordered the case of an Essex police officer suspected of fatally shooting his neighbor's dog to go to trial.

Michael Wootton, 35, of Waterville allegedly shot Hooch, an 80-pound mixed-breed, after it attacked his dog, Yoda, a 20-pound pug, April 30, on Phyllis Lane in Waterville, according to court papers.

Wootton pleaded not guilty in May to committing cruelty to animals and two months later asked to have the charge dismissed. Judge Christina Reiss denied Wootton's motion to dismiss Sept. 3 in Vermont District Court in Hyde Park. Jury draw for his trial is scheduled for Nov. 2.

The Essex Police Department placed Wootton, a full-time officer, on administrative duties after the shooting.

Yoda allegedly ran on to Wootton's neighbors' property and got into a fight with their dog Hooch. Wootton said he feared Hooch would kill Yoda, and after failing with two other people to keep the dogs apart, went back to his house to get his handgun, according to court papers.

Hooch's owners, Ritchie and Rosemary Rogers, arrived home after their dog had been killed.

Although Hooch died on Wootton's lawn, Vermont State Police Cpl. Mark Lucas, who investigated the case, said he found the bullet, which apparently passed through the dog, on the Rogers' driveway, according to court papers.

One Vermont law prohibits the intentional killing of someone's pet without the owner's consent, while another law permits the killing of a pet if the animal attacks, and poses a reasonable threat of injuring, another pet.

The maximum penalty for committing cruelty to animals is a fine of $2,000, up to one year in prison or both.

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