Two men who claimed they merely put a stray dog out of its misery were found guilty today of felony animal cruelty for tying the animal to a tree and shooting it repeatedly with a bow and arrow until it died.
The two Wilkeson men — one of them the son of the mayor — were convicted of killing the Siberian husky on March 8. Wilkeson is located about 20 miles southwest of Tacoma.
Witnesses said Stephen Paulson, 21, the son of Mayor Doug Paulson, and Troy Loney, 19, tied the stray dog to a tree and repeatedly shot it with a bow and a single arrow, pulling the arrow out and using it again and again, until the dog died, according to court documents.
Pierce County Superior Court Judge Thomas Felnagle said the men were inconsistent and lacked credibility in their explanation of why they killed the dog. They could face up to a year behind bars when sentenced Oct. 1.
A school janitor who said he witnessed the killing said the two fired an arrow about nine times, pulling it out of the wounded animal to use it again and again.
But when Loney took the stand later, he said he shot the dog only once, after Paulson had done the same, according to The News Tribune of Tacoma. He added that they used separate arrows, and that the blue-eyed dog died quickly.
He also said they shot the dog only after trying multiple ways to find it a home, including leaving it tied outside the fire station and giving it to some kids who later brought the animal back, the paper reported.
"We decided to put it down with a bow and arrow — that's all we had," Loney said. "We thought it was most humane, rather than smashing its head with a rock."
Judge: Prosecution Must Prove Intent
The case brought animal rights activists converging on Pierce County Superior Court in Tacoma.
"We want to see jail time in this case," Susan Michaels of Pasado's Safe Haven, an animal rescue organization, said before the trial. "It's the least of what these two guys deserve for what they put this dog through."
Prosecutors' job became more difficult earlier this week when the judge ruled that to make the case for animal cruelty, they would not be enough for the prosecution to prove the two defendants killed the dog in the manner the witnesses described. They also had to prove Paulson and Loney wanted to make the dog suffer.
Deputy prosecutor Dennis Ashman had argued that the only thing he should have to prove was that Paulson and Loney killed the dog by a means that was inherently cruel, without having to prove their intent.
The defense said the dog's death was unfortunate, but said the young men did not intend to make the animal suffer. At the nonjury trial, however, Felnagle disagreed, finding them guilty.
A statement on Pasado's Safe Heaven Web site thanked members of the community who had helped focus attention on the case.
"When the judge announced his decision, you could sense that the packed courtroom wanted to stand up and cheer — frankly, some of us could only weep," the statement said. "Although Pasado's Safe Haven has spent months working on this case, we were not aware of all of the disturbing details of this grisly crime until we had to sit through trial testimony and hear it for ourselves."
ABC News affiliate KOMO-TV in Seattle contributed to this report.