A Connecticut woman has alleged that her two German Shepherds were shot, beheaded, and skinned after a hunter mistook them for wolves.
The dogs, Cimo and Lieben, were both 10 years old and belonged to the family of Erin Caviola in Ridgefield, Connecticut.
She told News 12 that the dogs were shot on 18 November on property that borders hers, adding that she received a call from an individual on 12 December telling her that the hunter had shared images of the dogs after they had been shot.
“This is horrific. It has been absolutely devastating. We don’t know how this can happen, to look at these two beautiful animals and do that,” she said.
Ms Caviola told Fox 5 that on the morning the dogs vanished, the family noticed that part of the fence surrounding the family’s home had been pulled down.
Department of Energy & Environmental Protection officials said they thought a bear was behind the damage, and Ms Caviola told Fox 5 it allowed the dogs to jump over the fence and run off.
“In the middle of the night, we had a bear break down part of our fence because we have beehives on our property, and the dogs must’ve run out,” Ms Caviola told News 12.
The family spent weeks searching for the dogs, engaging their community. After almost a month of unsuccessful searching, the individual reached out to Ms Caviola, sharing an image of what seemed to be the remains of the dogs.
“The pictures that we got was them posed on the ground, laying there, and you could clearly see that they both had been shot in the chest,” she told Fox 5.
The Department of Energy & Environmental Protection was handed the case by the police and Mike Konschak was arrested but it remains unclear what he was hunting for, according to the local Fox affiliate.
“When you put an animal to sleep, you can comfort them,” Ms Caviola told Fox. “This was a little different. It’s the act of them being shot and killed but the act of what happened to them after is very concerning to us.”
In a change.org petition, Ms Caviola argues that Mr Konschak should have his hunting licence revoked and that he be charged with animal cruelty. As of Wednesday, almost 60,000 people have signed.
The petition description states that the dogs “were killed in a yard off of Topcrest Lane, connecting to sparse woods that touched their own yard and the yards of many young families, as well as Ridgebury Elementary School in Ridgefield, CT. The man who did this is named Mike Konschak. He forged permission to be hunting on private property in this area as he is from New York”.
She said he has been charged with forgery, evidence tampering, and violating hunting rules. He’s set to appear in court on Wednesday.
Parts of the remains have been buried in the family’s backyard.
“We were hoping to have many more memories from them,” Ms Caviola told Fox 5.
Ms Caviola said the individual who called on 12 December said the hunter had visited a taxidermist to have the hides tanned, but that he was rejected because they were dogs.
“We confirmed that was them and from that moment on is when an investigation started,” Ms Caviola told News 12.
The local outlet reported that Mr Konschak’s case is sealed at this time as he’s applied for accelerated rehabilitation. It’s a probation programme conducted ahead of a trial which lets offenders without a criminal history have their charges dropped if they finish the programme.
Lawyer Brian Romano represents Mr Konschak, telling News 12 that “there is a sealing order on this file. Due to that, I’m unable to comment at this time”.
“It’s been very stressful and nothing that we would want any family to go through, which is really why we would like to get this out,” Ms Caviola added to the outlet.
“Super smart, very affectionate,” Ms Caviola said of the dogs. “They were very well trained and friendly and just absolute joy that we had in our lives.”
According to News 12, there was a tent and a feeder in the area where the pets were shot. A neighbour told the outlet they belonged to Mr Konschak. The owner of the property told the outlet that she had allowed Mr Konschak to hunt on her property for about two decades, adding that comes at times during the hunting season but that she doesn’t keep a close eye on him.
The Connecticut Department of Energy & Environmental Protection told The Independent in a statement that its “Environmental Conservation Police thoroughly investigated this case and subsequently arrested Michael Konschak, 61, of Carmel, New York”.
“The State’s Attorney’s Office makes charging decisions and is currently prosecuting this case ... As this is an active case, we are unable to comment further at this time,” they added.
The Independent has reached out to Mr Romano for comment.