Butler Co’s Role in a Tragedy

Butler Co Sheriff Craig D. Murphy (image courtesy of bucoks.com)

Butler Co Sheriff Craig D. Murphy (image courtesy of bucoks.com)

To a suburban resident, the occasional stray dog wandering the yard doesn’t seem like a big problem. About once a week my dog practically leaps from her skin in an effort to fend off (or, more likely, lick) dogs that wander leashless onto our property. Most have escaped their yards and are caught quickly. If not, I have the option of calling animal control.

But what if there is no animal control?

Kristine Knutson of Butler County, Kansas, decided last May to take matters into her own hands when the neighbor’s golden retriever puppy wandered up to her back porch. She claimed to be tired of loose dogs attacking her horses and doves. She pulled out her rifle and shot the retriever.

As the El Dorado Times reported Monday, Knutson was charged with animal cruelty and found guilty by jury. In an unusual move, Judge John Sanders agreed to review the jury’s findings. But ultimately, he decided to uphold their verdict. Knutson was fined almost $1,000–part of that restitution money to the family whose pet was killed–and faces 90 days in prison plus 6 months of probation.

A call to the Butler County sheriff’s office confirmed that Butler County has no animal control office, and I was told that I could contact a police officer to “explain the options” available to me if I had a problem with a stray animal. Knutson’s attorney, Gail Jensen, says the sheriff’s office told Knutson that her “option”¬†was to shoot any roving dogs on her property. If true, the Butler County sheriff is as much to blame as Knutson.

Without clear-cut guidelines, and proper avenues to follow, people like Kristine Knutson will exercise the extreme option. We applaud the judge’s decision and sentence, but Butler County needs to have a better system in place to avoid tragedies like this one. Let’s hope this case wakes them up.

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