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Sheriff says that property owner justified in shooting dog

by CHRIS PETERSON & SCOTT SHINDLEDECKER
Editor | February 10, 2021 7:00 AM

A Columbia Falls woman is mourning the death of her two dogs after they were shot by a neighbor, who said the animals were on his land chasing cattle and chickens.

Lauren Fredenberg lives with her husband, Keith Wright, on Trap Road, outside Columbia Falls. Fredenberg said she grew up in the neighborhood and she and her husband purchased about 10 acres from her father, who bought land in the area several decades ago.

“I have horses, so I wanted to have enough land for them,” Fredenberg said. “I feel hurt and scared for my other animals. I’m afraid for my cats, horses and other dogs.”

According to Flathead County Sheriff Brian Heino, his department received a call at 2 p.m. Sunday, Jan. 31, from a man who said he had just shot at two dogs that were running loose on his property chasing cattle and chickens.

In a press release, it was reported county deputies and animal control officers responded and spoke to the reporting party and with the dog owner. It was determined the dogs were running loose and on property that contained cattle and were harassing the cows. The dogs were not under control of their owner.

In a later letter to the editor to the Daily Inter Lake, the wife of the property owner disputed that they had killed the second dog, which was found near the road.

“Unfortunately, I didn’t latch the gate and his (the older dog) nose got the best of him and he got out,” Fredenberg said. “The puppy got over there, too.”

“Yes, my husband shot and killed their dog around 12:30 p.m. I was standing near the patio windows facing east. Our pasture land of 5 acres is between our house and the neighbor. I saw the two dogs running circles around one of our cows by their scratching post and then sliding under our gate and going after several free ranging chickens and on into the open coop door,” wrote Susan Brant. “I could tell that there would be a few dead chickens if we did not respond quickly. I yelled for my husband that dogs were trying to grab chickens. He grabbed his gun while I opened the door to yell at the dogs.”

But Brant said they did not kill the second dog.

“The neighbor’s story also throws into the mix that we killed her old dog at 4 a.m. the same day and someone found it dead along the road. We know nothing and have no involvement in the old dog’s death,” she said.

According to the Sheriff’s Office, in the course of the investigation it was determined the owner of the cattle was defending his livestock under Montana Code Annotated 81-7-401. No charges will be filed at this time.

Heino said previous incidents had been reported by the cattle owner in 2019 and other reports from the location included animals chasing pedestrians.

“We’ve had four calls about dogs at this residence,” Heino said.

In February 2016, the neighbor who shot the dogs said the animals had killed some chickens, according to Heino. In October 2017, Heino said people walking their dogs near the residence on Trap Road pepper- sprayed dogs that lunged at them.

Then in May 2018, two people riding bikes pepper-sprayed dogs from the property who chased them as they rode past it.

“I wish I had confirmation my older dog was chasing cows,” Fredenberg said. “He’s half blind and half deaf.

“I just want every dog owner to watch their animals closely because there are a lot of mean people here, but right now I’d just like to put it behind me.”

Heino noted in his press release that “with this unfortunate incident,” the Sheriff’s Office would like to remind the public to be familiar with the Flathead County dog ordinances, which can be found at www.flatheadcountysheriff.com under the patrol and animal control tabs.

He recommended dog owners read the state law, MCA 81-7-401, and be familiar with Montana law regarding dogs chasing livestock.

Brant said the incident has gotten ugly on social media.

“Lots of nasty threats have happened to us since the incident. One lady drove up and came through the fenced gated yard to knock on our door to let us know we will “regret this,” Brant wrote.

“Because the neighbor chose to escalate her cause on Facebook it has become an ugly, slanderous, one-sided story to instill hate and revenge on us.

“We don’t go on Facebook, but did read it the next day when friends were warning us how ugly it has become with threats.

“I will never open up Facebook again and this letter’s intention is not to point fingers or stir up trouble.

“I just want our normal life back without wondering who might drive up or call us to shout “dog killer” at us. We have gotten well over 30 hang-up calls in two days.”

The full text of the letter is at: https://dailyinterlake.com/news/2021/feb/06/other-side-story/