Originally Posted Online: Dec. 27, 2012, 9:48 pm
Last Updated: Dec. 28, 2012, 7:28 pm

New charge filed in Christmas Eve shooting of dog

Comment on this story

By Laura Anderson Shaw, landerson@qconline.com

More photos from this shoot
Photo: Paul Colletti
Stacey Ernat stopped in Iowa to visit a friend while traveling back to the Quad-Cities for Christmas. While there a man who lived nearby shot Stacey's dog with a shotgun from about 40 feet away. Stacey rushed her dog to a veterinarian where he died.

A second charge has been filed in the fatal shooting of a dog on Christmas Eve.

Charles Collins Cutler, age unavailable, of Marne, Iowa, is now cited with animal abuse, an aggravated misdemeanor, according to court records filed Thursday. He previously was cited for reckless use of a firearm, a simple misdemeanor.

A Jan. 17 court date has been set.

On Monday, Mr. Cutler reportedly shot Wrigley, a 1-year-old chocolate Labrador retriever owned by Stacey Ernat, 23, formerly of Coal Valley and now of Denver, Colo. Ms. Ernat said she was loading her car in Marne, preparing to drive to her parents' home in Silvis, when Wrigley was playing with another dog in the snow at a nearby church yard.

Ms. Ernat said the church yard butted up against the backyard of Mr. Cutler's home. Mr. Cutler told police he fired a shotgun at Wrigley because it was on his property. The other dog was not injured.

Wrigley later died at a veterinarian's office in Iowa, with Ms. Ernat bringing the dog to Coal Valley for burial on her family's land.

Previous story:

Wrigley was a sweet, loving, kind dog who really loved to play.

That makes losing her that much harder to swallow for her 23-year-old owner, Stacey Ernat.

Wrigley, a 1-year-old chocolate Labrador retriever, was shot and killed on Christmas Eve in Marne, Iowa, as she played in the snow while Ms. Ernat was loading her car.

Ms. Ernat is a third grade teacher in Denver, Colo. She and a friend were driving back to Silvis, where her parents live, for the holidays when the two stopped for a couple of days to visit her friend's family in Marne, about four hours from the Quad-Cities.

While Ms. Ernat and her friend loaded the car to continue to Silvis, Wrigley was nearby, playing in the snow with a friend's puppy in a church yard next to the house where she was staying.Ms. Ernat said the church yard butted up against the backyard of the man who shot Wrigley with a shotgun.

He "literally opened his back door, fired the gun and went back inside," Ms. Ernat said."She (Wrigley) put a paw on his land and he shot her."

Ms. Ernat said she was inside when Wrigley was shot, but her friends outside said they saw the whole thing. They shouted Wrigley had been shot, she said, and she rushed to find the dog curled up underneath a boat trailer, trying to hide.

"I just picked her up, and I just held her," Ms. Ernat said, sniffing as she paused. "(I was) yelling for someone to please call the vet."

She rushed Wrigley to a veterinarian about 10 miles away. There, the dog died.

"I just ran and I picked her up and I just tried to save her life," Ms. Ernat said. "It didn't happen."

The Des Moines Register reported Collins Cutler, of Marne, was charged with unlawful discharge of a firearm within city limits in the incident. He is scheduled to appear in court next month. Other charges are pending, according to the Cass County attorney's office.

According to The Register, Cass County Sheriff Darby McLaren said Mr. Cutler told a deputy the dog was on his property, which he thought gave him the right to shoot it. The sheriff told the newspaper that, occasionally, someone in Cass County will shoot a dog that appears threatening to people or animals, but the Labrador reportedly posed no threat.

The other dog was uninjured.

Ms. Ernat brought Wrigley to her hometown of Coal Valley to be buried on Monday. She said her parents still own land there, and Wrigley was buried on Christmas Eve in a spot where she really loved to play.

"It's been really hard," she said, adding Wednesday night was the first time she was able to talk about it "without just bawling."

"It was a hard Christmas," she said. "I cried all day."

Ms. Ernat said her family also is feeling the loss.

"She wasn't just my dog," she said, adding Wrigley lived at her parents' house before the two moved to Denver.

Ms. Ernatsaid she is going to try to "just heal, and not be so heartbroken." But she is dreading her return to Denver in a few days.

"I don't really want to go back without her," she said.