Pennsylvania dog killed by hunters who thought it was a coyote – charges against hunter ruled out

Family Malamute mix is shot dead by hunters who thought it was a coyote

  • A Pennsylvania’s family dog was shot by a hunter who thought he was a coyote
  • Hunter, an 8-year-old malamute mix, was shot January 7 while out for a walk in the woods with his owner
  • Charges against the hunter have been ruled out by law enforcement, ruling it was a case of mistake identity 
  • In Pennsylvania, coyote hunting is legal with a general hunting license
  • The family has started a GoFundMe to file a civil suit against the hunter 

A Pennsylvania family’s beloved dog was recently shot and killed while out in the woods with his owner after a hunter thought the animal was a coyote. 

Jennifer Heller’s eight-year-old malamute mix Hunter was tragically shot in Berks County, Pennsylvania, while wearing reflective collars and harnesses. 

Heller shared the news of the animal’s death in a Facebook post while calling for justice for her pup and saying he ‘suffered in pain’ before he died on the way to the hospital.

The Heller family has started a GoFundMe to help raise money for legal expenses to bring a civil case to ‘hold accountable the parties that have tried to sweep this incident under the rug.’ 

A Pennsylvania family's beloved dog was recently shot and killed while out in the woods with his owner after a hunter thought the animal was a coyote

A Pennsylvania family’s beloved dog was recently shot and killed while out in the woods with his owner after a hunter thought the animal was a coyote

Jennifer Heller's eight-year-old malamute mix Hunter was tragically shot in Berks County, Pennsylvania to go for a walk with his owner

Jennifer Heller’s eight-year-old malamute mix Hunter was tragically shot in Berks County, Pennsylvania to go for a walk with his owner 

Pennsylvania law enforcement officials have ruled out charges against the hunter, telling one local outlet ‘no game law violations were detected’ and the incident was purely mistaken identity. Hunter weighed nearly 90 pounds, double the size of a coyote, the woman said.

The shooting has sparked outrage among the community, with many rallying behind the Hellers to help bring ‘justice for Hunter.’ 

The shooting happened on January 7 when Chris Heller was taking Hunter and the family’s other dog, Freya, out at a ‘very commonly used walking path’ by their home.

Jennifer said in a Facebook post Chris found no cars at the entrance to the trail but the man kept the dogs close by anyway. 

At some point, Chris found a group of hunters and conversed with them about how he thought hunting season was over. The group told them it had been extended. 

Chris let the hunters know he and his dogs, who were off-leash, would be walking through the woods and told them he would be out of the way in several minutes. 

Hunter was shot while wearing reflective collars and harnesses, Jennifer says

Hunter was shot while wearing reflective collars and harnesses, Jennifer says

The dog had been out for a walk with his owner and their other dog, Freya

The dog had been out for a walk with his owner and their other dog, Freya

Chris Heller said he had spoken with hunters to tell them they were walking in the area before Hunter had been shot

Chris Heller said he had spoken with hunters to tell them they were walking in the area before Hunter had been shot 

The hunters communicated to the others in the party that there would be a man and two large dogs in the area, according to Jennifer’s post.   

Before they could walk away, one of the hunters shot the dog while he was just feet away.

The malamute mix was shot ‘in the gut’ by a hunter with a scope on his rifle. 

Chris yelled out ‘who shot my dog?’ before he carried the pup, calling out for help. 

Jennifer said the hunter who shot Hunter stood and watched as the others attempted to help with the wounded animal. 

Before the family was able to bring Hunter to the car but the animal died after a short drive as he ‘suffered in pain’ for 20 minutes. 

Before they could walk away, one of the hunter's shot the dog while he was just feet away

Before they could walk away, one of the hunter’s shot the dog while he was just feet away

This is the photo of the dog's collar, shared by Jennifer in a Facebook post

This is the photo of the dog’s collar, shared by Jennifer in a Facebook post 

The hunter allegedly did not apologize to the family for killing the dog.   

‘The hunter only said I thought it was a coyote. I want this hunter to lose his hunting privileges for a few years and have to take a hunter safety course before he can hunt again,’ Jennifer wrote. 

‘This was a family pet,’ Jennifer Heller said in an interview with local media. ‘It wasn’t a wild animal. He was loved and taken care of. We called him “the cheese man” because he loved dairy products. We used to bribe him with cheese.’ 

The Hellers adopted Hunter from Howling Woods Farm in Jackson Township, New Jersey, according to an interview they gave to the Morning Call

The dog was a beloved member of the Heller family

The dog was a beloved member of the Heller family

According to the Pennsylvania Game Commission, there is ‘no closed season’ on hunting coyotes.  

‘Outside of any big game season (deer, bear, elk and turkey), coyotes may be taken with a hunting license or a furtaker license, and without wearing orange,’ the PA Game Commission states on its website. 

Hunters need to have a ‘general license’ to hunt the animal in the state.  

‘During any big game season, coyotes may be taken while lawfully hunting big game or with a furtaker license,’ the site continues. 

'Hunter was so loved by so many people and shouldn¿t have had his life ended,' Jennifer said

‘Hunter was so loved by so many people and shouldn’t have had his life ended,’ Jennifer said

A spokesperson for the PA Game Commission told The Morning Call said the group of hunters were in full compliance with the law. 

The spokesperson said dog owners who are in areas where hunters are present should use fluorescent vests and harnesses. 

He continued, stating the burden is still on hunters to positively identify their targets before they shoot. 

‘It’s a fundamental rule of hunting,’ the spokesperson said. 

The family is now raising money to cover legal expenses against the hunter

The family is now raising money to cover legal expenses against the hunter

Despite officials saying it was completely legal, the family is still pursuing legal action against the hunter. 

Jennifer recently started a GoFundMe to raise $10,000 to help cover a retainer for a lawyer. 

The family alleges that the PA Game Commission ‘has shot down every suggestion and has made indications to Jennifer Heller that the real problem is the Hellers not understanding this was “a mistake” and just letting it go.’ 

They also say they have tried to make contact with the hunter but he does not want to meet out of fear of social media backlash. 

A lawyer has told the family he believes ‘they have a strong foundation for a civil case and can hold accountable the parties that have tried to sweep this incident under the rug.’ 

As of January 15, the fundraiser has brought in just over $3,100. 

‘Hunter was so loved by so many people and shouldn’t have had his life ended,’ Jennifer said. 

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