WEST VIRGINIA -- What would allow a West Virginian who adopted a dog from a no-kill animal shelter to have that dog shot and killed?
13 News found shelter managers fighting for justice, a dispute over the dog's temperament, and a county prosecutor whose decision goes against what he knows happened.
Sara Dempsey said, "Bernie was executed."
Cabell County's Little Victories Animal Shelter director went through the usual, meticulous background check she does with everyone who wants to adopt a pet.
Little Victories is a no-kill shelter.
In October, they adopted out a Pug mix named Bernie to Amie Bowling of Hurricane.
But in November, the shelter found out that Bernie had been shot and killed at the owner's request.
When we went to owner Amie Bowling's house, she refused to speak with us, only saying, "I adopted it but I didn't do anything to it. My neighbor did, and now sir, please go."
We asked neighbor Sam Rife how he shot the dog.
"Just right back there in your woods, huh?"
"Yes, said Rife.
"Rifle or pistol?" we asked him.
"Pistol," said Rife.
Shelter Director Sara Dempsey told 13 News, "Bernie was a little defenseless, sweet fun loving dog. Just four days before they killed him, we were told that everything was going great."
Sam Rife claimed, "It was a mean little dog. It bit both her boys and bit me too.
So, You took it into the woods and shot it?
"Yes" Rifle matter-of-factly said without emotion.
Bowling's next door neighbor, Dreama Fain told us Bernie was sweet, gentle and often fled to her home for food, affection and to escape cruelty.
Fain said, "I've seen Amie Bowling and her boyfriend hit on their animals."
Was he a vicious dog as they claim?
"No, No He played with my granddaughter."
Sam Rife also told us Bowling had trouble keeping dogs in her yard and she should have taken the dog back to the shelter.
Killer Rife claimed that Bernie was "not an adoptable dog".
Bowling had signed a contract with Little Victories, agreeing that if there was any problem, she would return the dog.
Sara Dempsey said, "We would rather take them back, do all we can to re-adopt and find a loving home."
Fain, Dempsey and others called for criminal charges for abuse of an animal.
When Hurricane Police conducted their investigation, Amie Bowling and Sam Rife were the only two interviewed,
Police were told by the suspects (aka killers) that the dog was a "vicious biter" and turned the case over to the Putnam County prosecutor Mark Sorsacia.
The prosecutor told 13 News its commonplace in West Virginia for people to shoot dogs considered vicious. He did not believe this was a malicious killing, which would qualify it as a felony.
So as long as someone claims the dead animal was vicious, they can get away with this in West Virginia.
Sorsacia said even though he does not like or approve of what happened, this case is not prosecutable in this state.
Little Victories will soon begin a social media campaign, to share Bernie's story.
Little Victories says it is heartbroken over the county's legal response to what they see as a clear case of animal cruelty.
The prosecutor said the rescue could file a civil suit in this case.
Probably on the adoption paperwork it said that if the owner wanted to get rid of the dog for any reason they agreed to return the dog to the rescue - not to sell it, give it away, take it to the pound OR KILL IT. By killing Bernie, they violated the contract so they might be able to sue them for that. Small solace for Bernie.
The no kill animal shelter says it is leaving that door open for now.
(TriStateUpdate - Jan 30, 2017)