A West Vincent Township man has been charged in a Feb. 12 incident that resulted in the deaths of an area family's two pet dogs.
Police say Gabriel Pilotti, 72, admitted shooting "Argus" and "Fiona," Bernese Mountain Dogs belonging to the family of one of his neighbors, Mary Bock, because he discovered them chasing sheep inside an enclosed pasture on his property.
Bock told police that the dogs had escaped from her yard.
According to police, Pilotti told them during interviews on Feb. 12 and Feb. 21 that he first saw the dogs "chasing his sheep" from his kitchen window. He then retrieved a shotgun and ammunition from his garage and went outside to the edge of the sheep enclosure.
"Argus," the male dog, approached Pilotti at a trot, according to his account. He then allegedly shot "Argus" in the head, killing the dog immediately. According to police, Pilotti said he then reloaded and shot "Fiona" as she fled toward the opposite end of the pasture. "Fiona" fell, got up, ran a few more steps, then died.
According to Pilotti's statement as it appears in the criminal complaint, none of Pilotti's sheep were near either dog at the time they were shot. Police said they determined that none of Pilotti's sheep were harmed during the incident.
"There was no justification for the killing of these two dogs. The defendant has been charged and will be dealt with appropriately," Chester County District Attorney Tom Hogan said in a statement issued Friday. "Our sympathies go out to the family and children who lost their beloved pets."
Pilotti has been charged with cruelty to animals and, because his attempts to shoot the dogs allegedly placed a neighbor's occupied home in the line of fire, reckless endangerment.
The incident had generated a great deal of controversy in the community before Hogan's office announced the charges on Friday. A public Facebook group that includes the dogs' owners had attracted more than 2,500 members by Friday afternoon.
Bock said on the Facebook group's page on Wednesday that her dogs escaped her yard through a damaged area in the fence and had been gone about 15 minutes when Pilotti shot them.
"Having the law on his side, in his mind, makes the choices he made that day ok. Most people would not abuse this law, but because of Gabe Pilotti we are reminded that people can be very cruel and unfortunately we cannot trust in humanity to always make the best decision," Bock wrote.