When Attorneys Argue the Law? Wow…

If you have ever wondered how some attorneys like to banter amongst themselves, check comments below. A comedy show.


Death of pet dog mistaken for wolf reveals loophole in state poaching law

Posted Dec 30, 2013 11:15 AM CST
By Martha Neil

  • When a hunter kills game out of season, there’s a legal price to pay for poaching.

But there’s no comparable law applicable to the accidental shooting of pets, Montana authorities told a man whose brown and white dog was mistaken for a wolf and shot to death by a hunter as Layne Spence was cross-country skiing on public land with his three malamutes.

Spence now hopes to change that situation, hiring a lawyer to sue the unidentified hunter and possibly the state Department of Fish, Wildlife and Parks as well, according to the Great Falls Tribune and the Missoulian.

Meanwhile, state Rep. Ellie Boldman Hill, D-Missoula, told the Tribune she is working with state prosecutors on a law to close the legal loophole. One possibility is to expand poaching prohibitions to include pets. Another is to change animal cruelty law to include such hunting accidents.

“I don’t want attention on me,” Spence told the newspaper. “I want it on my dog, so this doesn’t happen to someone else. When I said this was like losing one of my kids, someone commented I should know what it’s like to actually lose a child. Well, I do. My daughter was killed by a drunk driver in 1987.”


Dec 30, 2013 11:41 AM CST

I don’t understand how the intentional killing of an animal could be viewed as accidental.

Dec 30, 2013 1:53 PM CST

What is Montana law on actus reus?  Attempted poaching?

3.B. McLeod
Dec 30, 2013 6:49 PM CST

Maybe the hunter thought it was a wolf in dog’s clothing.

Why would anyone want to focus their attention on a dead dog?  Must not be much going on out Montana way.

4.cheryl kindschy
Dec 30, 2013 8:14 PM CST

That was a callous comment. It’s about the act that some thoughtless
Person committed. Maybe the question is why don’t you get it.
People value their animals. They become family members.

If he couldn’t tell a dog from a wolf there should not be a gun in his hand. A thoughtless hunter. Then asks the question what do you want me to do.
He should expect anything. Don’t blame the owner.

5.B. McLeod
Dec 30, 2013 8:21 PM CST

THIS is why I tell my cat not to act like a wolf, and, I don’t let her dress up like a wolf either.  Of course, she has no constitutional rights, so she has to be careful.  Animals as chattels goes back to Merrye Olde.  I didn’t come up with it.  You would think people would have figured it out by now.  The state (like kings of olde) owns the wild wolves, so they can be poached, but domestic chattels of private citizens cannot be poached (unless you cook them that way).

Dec 31, 2013 12:49 AM CST

Animals as chattels goes back to Merrye Olde.
So does the concept of people as chattels. Redefining poaching to include domestic animals is no different than a state changing its marriage laws to include same-sex couples.

Dec 31, 2013 7:00 AM CST


Fortunately, my Pit Bull will never be mistaken for a wolf.

8.B. McLeod
Dec 31, 2013 7:31 AM CST

The state does not own same sex couples.

Dec 31, 2013 9:32 AM CST

Seriously McLeod, there are times I believe you have NO SOUL!

10.Paul the Magyar
Dec 31, 2013 10:46 AM CST

That would also explain the absence of wit.

11.Dr Phun
Dec 31, 2013 11:08 AM CST

This doesn’t make sense.  Ok, dogs are property.  I get that.  Are they saying that if I was hunting in MT and thought I saw a squirrel near a car, shot and missed, and hit the car, that there isn’t any applicable law?  As long as I only damage property and don’t hurt anyone?

Dec 31, 2013 2:35 PM CST

@ Dr. Phun

That was my first question as well. My guess is that accidentally shooting a pet would require proof of negligence while poaching would be strict liability.

13.Docile Jim Brady – Columbus OH 43209
Dec 31, 2013 3:06 PM CST

A ¼² (0.0625) Modest Proposal

Change status of animals to royalty ;
Follow Swift’s proposal to handle children ;
Repeal all penal laws forbidding bestuality ; no problem with genetics since no offspring.

Dec 31, 2013 7:01 PM CST


Due to their negative image in the media, people might not mistake your pit bull for a wolf but that won’t keep it from being shot merely because it is a pit bull. The hysteria surrounding pit bulls is shameful. Pit bulls are the sweetest, most loving dogs there are.

15.B. McLeod
Jan 1, 2014 2:21 PM CST

I think pit bulls would be too stringy and gristly, even if you poached them.

Jan 1, 2014 6:16 PM CST

I would really like to see a picture of this dog. Wolves are not brown and white, if this dog was clearly a spotted animal there is no way I could believe someone would mistake it for a wolf.

Maybe something like a Malamute or Siberian husky (some of them because their markings can closely resemble some wolfs) but most domestic animals (dogs) do not look anything like wolves.

17.B. McLeod
Jan 1, 2014 9:00 PM CST

The story says Spence was skiing with his three malamutes.  So, yeah, partly his fault for bringing a wolf-like dog.  Also, the fact that someone is hunting wolves (in season or out) doesn’t necessarily mean that person can recognize one.  Bear in mind that many people have actually been shot by hunters mistaking them for various animals (in one case, reportedly, a zebra).

Jan 2, 2014 5:40 AM CST

@14/@15 You both make excellent points.

19.George Sly
Jan 3, 2014 10:36 AM CST

In answer to Dr. Phun, the hunter is liable for the destruction of the dog which is considered property.  The hunter should also be liable for various charges relating to hunting.  If he shot the dog believing it to be a wolf and wolves are protected, there should still be a game law violation.  There should also be violations relating to the handling of firearms.  If I’m out hunting and I fire in the direction of or hit a domestic animal, I’m guilty of unsafe gun handling and I can lose my license.  If Mr. Spence were anywhere in the line of fire that would be reckless endangerment.  Do the authorities in Montana allow someone to kill a farmer’s cow mistaking it for an elk, (stupid, but it has happened) and not be subject to any legal penalties?  It’s the same thing.  At the very least the authorities should be required to release the name of the person who shot the dog to Mr. Spence so he can file a civil suit for the destruction of his dog.

Jan 3, 2014 10:39 PM CST


You may some very good points. Perhaps someone in authority has decided that a potential lawsuit could have negative consequences for hunting in the state and they have decided to throw up a few roadblocks to undercoving the identity of the hunter.

21.B. McLeod
Jan 4, 2014 2:50 AM CST

Game laws can be tricky.  Like other statutes, the offenses have elements.  If this hunter had road-hunted the Malamute, shot it from a motor boat, or at night using a spotlight, he would probably get jacked up for it.  Simply shooting a dog out of wolf season is probably missing elements of an offense.  This does not mean the owner should not have a civil recovery for trespass to chattels (fair market or replacement value of the dog).  Spence is just going to be disappointed in the outcome when this defendant throws replacement-value dollars at the case to settle it for its legal worth.



One thought on “When Attorneys Argue the Law? Wow…

  1. We need to clarify something to you–we are NOT for animal rights, animal activists, or the pushing of animal rights propaganda. We are, of course, against animal abuse.

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