A recent incident in Wauwatosa in which a dog was allegedly shot by a neighbor who claimed it was charging him has drawn questions about what's covered — and what's not covered — by city ordinances when it comes to BB guns.
Robert Dohnal's 8-year-old American Water Spaniel named "Reagan" was allegedly shot by his neighbor with an air rifle July 31.
According to Dohnal, the dog was sitting in the family's sun room, a spot where she can see outside to watch — and bark at — the various wild animals that venture through the yard on West Potter Road. When the hunting dog heard shots outside that day, she went wild, Dohnal said.
"She (ran) out the door, barking like crazy," he said.
What happened next is somewhat uncertain; Reagan was allegedly shot by the neighbor with a BB gun. The neighbor had been shooting at squirrels, according to Lt. Brian Zalewski of the Wauwatosa Police Department. According to police reports, the neighbor said he shot at the dog as a matter of self-defense.
"I yelled 'You just shot my dog, get out of my yard, I’m calling police!'" Dohnal said.
Adhering to Now Newspaper policy, the neighbor is not being named as he has not been charged with a crime. The neighbor did not respond to a request seeking comment.
Whether or not Reagan was hit, she survived; the Dohnals eventually found what resembled a pellet hole over Reagan's rib cage. At first, Dohnal thought the neighbor may have missed the dog, as no blood trail was found, but he said his dog likely wriggled the pellet out on her own.
Officers were dispatched to the home on July 31 and again on Aug. 7 to follow up, but "due to conflicting statements it was difficult to issue a citation," Zalewski said.
There's still a lot unknown about what exactly happened on July 31 due to discrepancies between the two parties and lack of a third witness, said George Schimmel, an assistant city attorney for the city of Wauwatosa. Many unanswered questions remain regarding the incident, Schimmel said: Was the dog shot? Was the dog shot on her owner's property or the neighbor's property? If the dog was shot, was she charging the neighbor when it happened?
Dohnal has his questions, too.
The Wauwatosa resident said he's confused as to why his neighbor has not been cited and in an email to city officials, wrote: "Every day I have 50 dogs on my lawn peeing. We like talking to the people as they come by. Never (thought) of shooting them cause they were on my lawn and then have the police ignore it. Can I do that?? Claim they were dangerous and barking at me?"
Schimmel said he's still unfamiliar with the case and has not yet made any decision about whether to to charge the neighbor.
What city code covers
The incident also draws questions about city ordinances in regards to BB guns.
"The issue is really, is there an outright prohibition?" asked Schimmel. "There’s a prohibition against anyone doing anything that harms another person whether you’re throwing a fist, whether you’re throwing a ball, or whether you're throwing a BB."
According to city code, no one is allowed to fire revolvers, pistols, shotguns, rifles, bow and arrows or any other dangerous weapon unless it's justified. Air rifles, including all types of BB guns, are classified as "dangerous guns" by the city. The city prohibits the discharge of any bow, spring gun or other similar device which is calculated or intended to propel or project an arrow or other projectile. However, supervised and maintained archery ranges and shooting galleries are exempt.
City Attorney Alan Kesner said the use of BB guns is "appropriately covered by city code," although there's always room for improvement. He added when ordinances are written, it would be difficult to anticipate every upcoming incident that would fall under the code's reach.
Plus, he said, the city has adopted state statutes as local ordinances that covers crimes against animals and addresses actions like the mistreatment of animals and dognapping, among other things.
Dohnal said he planned to pursue charges against the neighbor with his own lawyer.