New Harmony dog shooting sparks moral, legal debate on animal cruelty

NEW HARMONY – The recent shooting deaths of two dogs in New Harmony have the community abuzz with debate over whether the incident and others like it are legally and morally justified.

Shooting incident

At 11:30 a.m. on Feb. 24, the Washington County Sheriff’s Office received a complaint of an animal problem at 2679 South Old Highway 91 in New Harmony.

“Deputies responded to the incident,” said Det. Nate Abbott, public information officer for the Sheriff’s Office. “(They) reported that two dogs were chasing livestock on private property and the property owner shot them.”

Brent Bassett, the property owner, confirmed that he had indeed shot the two dogs, a male German Shepherd named Ace and a female retriever mix named Sage. He surrendered their bodies to the Sheriff’s Office, completed a witness statement and provided deputies with the names and contact information of their owners, who were later informed of the incident, Abbott said. No citations were issued or arrests made.

Aftermath

The shooting left Brent Frankland and Sheryl Frankland, Ace’s owners, and Andrew Williamson, Sage’s owner, both of whom live only a few houses away from Bassett, shocked and upset. Since the incident, the Franklands have confronted Bassett to demand an explanation, posted an account of the shooting on various community websites and written to animal advocacy organizations across the county.

“I’m telling anyone who will listen and I’m not done yet,” Sheryl Frankland said. “We are outraged that a neighbor could be so heartless towards another neighbor. What he did hurt our family.”

“I loved my dog very much and I miss her very much,” Williamson said. “She didn’t deserve this.”

But the neighbors are angry for entirely different reasons. While the Franklands blame Bassett for a “cruel and unnecessary” act of violence, Williamson said the shooting is their fault.

“We had an agreement. They were to keep their dog tied up on even days of the week and I was to keep mine tied up on odd days, so that they didn’t band together, run off and cause trouble,” he said. “I stuck to my side of that agreement, but many times, they failed to keep their dog tied up. They didn’t, and both our dogs are dead because of it.”

“There was an agreement,” Sheryl Frankland said. “However, many times Mr. Williamson let his dog run loose when I did not welcome it on my property. I realize he is trying to place blame on me, but no one understands his loss better than I do.”

Williamson is also defending Bassett and said that he understands the reason behind his actions.

“If dogs harass horses and cause them to break out of their enclosure and run free, they can trample through yards, run into traffic and get lost or make a danger to people,” Williamson said. “He told me he was very sorry that he had to do it, but there’s no apology needed.”

“Mr. Bassett claims he shot the dogs because they were barking, but no one really knows if that is true because no one else was around,” Brent Frankland said. “It appears (the community) has just taken what Mr. Bassett told them and gone along with it.”

St. George News spoke to Bassett, but he declined to comment.

“The Franklands are so emotional and distraught from the loss of their dog that their rational judgment is clouded,” Williamson said. “If they are looking to blame someone for their dog’s loss and mine, all they need to do is look in the mirror.”

Harassment incident

On March 4, the Sheriff’s Office responded to a harassment complaint on the Bassett property. Bassett and his wife alleged that they had been receiving confrontational Facebook and phone messages from the Franklands since the shooting, and that Brent Frankland had engaged them in a verbal argument on their property. When questioned, Brent Frankland stated that he had a right to confront Bassett for killing his dog, but agreed to not have any further contact with him. No arrests were made and no further police activity has been reported on the Bassett or Frankland properties since.

Legalities

The following state and municipal statutes clarify the legalities surrounding the shooting:

  • According to Title 18, Chapter 1, Section 3 of the Utah Code, amended during the 2007 Legislative General Session, a person can injure or kill a dog while the dog is attacking, chasing or otherwise bothering a domestic animal, service animal, hoofed protected wildlife or domestic fowl. More on 18-1-3 can be found here.
  • According to Title 18, Chapter 1, Section 1, amended during the 2011 session, a person owning or keeping a dog is liable for any injury committed by the dog. More on 18-1-1 can be found here.
  • According to Title 5, Chapter 3A, Section 3 of the Washington County Code, amended in 2004, it is against the law for any owner or caretaker of a domestic animal to permit that animal to trespass on another person’s property. More on 5-3A-3 can be found here.
  • Title 76, Chapter 10, Section 508 of the Utah Criminal Code states that a person cannot fire a weapon within 600 feet of a house or any structure housing a domestic animal. However, the section does not apply to a person who fires a weapon in lawful defense of self or others. More on 76-10-508 can be found here.

No criminal charges have been or will be brought against Bassett, as the shooting was justified under state statute 18-1-3, Abbott said. And though Williamson, Brent Frankland and Sheryl Frankland could be found liable for allowing their dogs to trespass on private property, the Sheriff’s Office declined to cite them.

This matter may reach the civil court in the near future, however. Williamson said he will pursue legal action against Brent Frankland and Sheryl Frankland “if they keep dragging good people’s names through the mud.”

“I am considering suing Mr. Bassett,” Sheryl Frankland said. “At this point, I’m speaking to attorneys.”

Moral and legal debate

Though current laws uphold the shooting as a justified action, the Franklands are urging the community to be aware of, and support, a call to change them.

Utah has some of the worst animal cruelty laws in the country,” Sheryl Frankland said. “I don’t think most people realize this and I hope that informing them will inspire others to get involved and help push to change laws and ordinances to protect animals from unnecessary violence, like what Mr. Bassett did to our Ace. Recently, I have received an overwhelming amount of support from other New Harmony pet owners, as well as people from all over Utah.”

“My family and I feel that this was a senseless act of violence in a peaceful neighborhood and there are always better solutions to solve a problem than to just wield a weapon, especially in such close proximity to other residences,” Brent Frankland said. “People need to have more respect for life itself. The laws that allow shooting a dog just because it is, according to the person wielding the weapon having the power of their own personal statement, annoying or threatening livestock, appear to be in conflict with other safety laws. Surely, something needs to be changed.”

“I agree with the law,” Williamson said. “I would have done the same thing.”

Email: avmorgan@stgnews.com

Twitter: @STGnews

Copyright St. George News, SaintGeorgeUtah.com LLC, 2013, all rights reserved.

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33 Comments

  • Dan Lester March 18, 2013 at 7:06 am

    The whining couple need to accept responsibility for not controlling their dog. Typical of so many these days, not accepting responsibility for their own actions (or inaction).

    • Kenny jones March 24, 2013 at 10:20 am

      Well I am Kenny jones I am a Neighbor to Franklin and I can’t count how many times I chased there dang dog away from my live stock! Plus the number of pics I got of there dog on my trial cams in my horse pens. Seems to me they could care less where there dog ever was or doin!

    • Abt April 4, 2013 at 2:01 am

      What about the responsibility of the person who used their firearm?

      • My Evil Twin April 4, 2013 at 9:49 am

        Well, it appears that he was extremely responsible. He was defending his property in an emergent situation. So just what IS YOUR problem? Are you one of these lily-livered little folks who think “the government should always take care of us?” Grow up.

  • Cheryl Cummings March 18, 2013 at 7:22 am

    I am a dog and horse owner for over 40 years. I have never allowed my dogs to roam free to harass other peoples animals. Had my dogs gotten loose and been shot it would have been no ones fault but my own for not insuring their safety. Dogs, horses and any domestic animal need to be tended to by their owners and it is the owners responsibility to keep them secure and safe. If you can’t keep your dogs on your property and away from animals that are kept secure then you have no one to blame but yourself if your animal is shot.

    We had a beagle who loved to get loose and chase deer. We did our best to keep her safe but one Thanksgiving morning she escaped and was shot by a hunter. She survived and made it home. I had no one to blame but myself as it was my responsibility to keep her secure and safe. I didn’t blame the hunter, she should have been home. I didn’t blame the deer, it was in the woods. To this day, the only person to blame was me.

  • sweet jude March 18, 2013 at 7:29 am

    Too bad for the dogs owners. They should learn to take responsibility for their own actions instead of blaming someone else. What a classic case of mental nutcase who let their emotions cloud their judgment without consideration for what really happened

  • Maggie March 18, 2013 at 7:32 am

    I am an animal lover through and through. Most days I love my animals more than I love people,after reading this, I am having an animal day.
    It appears nobody is completely right in this case. I would not think of letting any animal run loose for their own safety and for the sake of being a good neighbor. However ,unless a life ,animal or human, is in jeopardy,no animal should be shot. Authorities can be called and legal actions can be taken,but the shooting of innocent animals is never justified

  • Joanna March 18, 2013 at 7:41 am

    It’s a shame the Franklands didn’t care for their animal better. Do they have other animals, and is the humane society investigating them to make sure they’re not letting them roam unattended?

  • Shari Thomas March 18, 2013 at 7:43 am

    We are rural farm owners, and have six dogs, none of whom are permitted to run loose without direct supervision. Even our “farm dog” the Border Collie is under supervision.

    Dogs that run loose are a danger to livestock and wildlife.

    As far as the owner shooting the offending dogs it appears there had been previous problems and the dog owners had been warned. The livestock owner has to protect his investment.

    We would do the same thing here. If one of our dogs want’s to chase our livestock, we put it back into the house. If it were to get out unsupervised and was caught in the act, as much as we love each of them, it would immediately re-homed, or put down.

    No whining, obey the law, Keep your property (animals, etc) secure on your own land.

  • Bev Lowe March 18, 2013 at 8:04 am

    Both of the dogs should have been kept on their respective properties, either by a fence, an invisible fence or a kennel. Period. If they were kept on their property they would still be alive and we wouldn’t be reading about this.

  • Robyn March 18, 2013 at 8:37 am

    Obviously the Falklands are newbies when it comes to rural living. While it may seem it’s okay to let your dog roam where there is little danger from traffic or other urban features, if your dog chases a neighbor’s livestock, your dog will be shot. That’s the long and the short of it. It was cruel of the Falklands (and the Williamses, but at least they recognize it was partially their own fault) to allow their dog into the situation in the first place. Utah’s animal cruelty laws could be stronger, but the shooting was not an act of cruelty. It was an act of defense on behalf of another animal. Welcome to rural reality Falklands.

  • -Mike- March 18, 2013 at 8:55 am

    Sounds like someone needs to invest in a fence, especially if they’re at the point that they need to set up a schedule for tying up their dogs. I understand that people want to live in rural areas for the open space and freedom, but if you haven’t disciplined your dog enough to stay out of your neighbors’ yards then either don’t have dogs or keep them fenced in. At least Mr Williamson seems to have a little common sense, and the Franklands apparently don’t understand that a horse with a broken leg is as good as a dead horse.

  • In Awe March 18, 2013 at 10:00 am

    I am in awe that the Franklands think their dog is more precious or valuable than any of the animals Bassett was legally protecting on his own property.
    “We are outraged that a neighbor could be so heartless towards another neighbor. What he did hurt our family.” I am in awe to read that Mrs Frankland can’t see her own heartlessness towards her neighbors by letting her dog run loose and torment the neighbors and their animals. The heartlessness of the Franklands was really hurting the Bassett family who cared about their own animals and investment.
    “…many times Mr. Williamson let his dog run loose when I did not welcome it on my property…” She even admits she didn’t want someone else’s dog on her property. So, who is she to say when anyone else should welcome her dog?
    I am completely bewildered by the people defending the dog owners and the heartless people calling Mr. Bassett a dog killer. I would rather label him as an animal protector! It sounds like he was protecting multiple animals!
    Although I don’t know you, Thank you, Mr Bassett, for having the patience to put up with such insensitive people for so long! And I feel for Mrs. Bassett for having to deal with the aftermath of such irrational people.

    • Sheryl Frankland March 20, 2013 at 6:48 pm

      Well, it is obvious that you don’t own dogs or horses and if you do you are incredibly ignorant. Dogs run off. They chase rabbits, other dogs and whatever moves. I don’t care how well trained your dog is, they will roam sometime. Why do you think people microchip their animals? Ace was. I understand the law here and it is ridiculous. A horse owner doesn’t need to protect his horses from a dog. That is crazy.The dog is far more likely to be hurt by the horse. Mr. Bassett had inadequate horse fencing and was worried his horses would escape and didn’t want to catch them. As for my neighbors dog on my property, just because I didn’t want it there doesn’t mean I would shoot it unless it was attacking my children. As for our agreement, I was outside on my property with my dog and only agreed to tie him when he was left alone. Mr. Bassett is not a responsible dog owner either. His dog wandered in the road constantly and eventually got hit by a car. He may think dogs are disposable, but I don’t. As for leash laws, I am yet to see someone living on 5 acre lots keep their dog on a leash when they are outside with their dog. If I should have been cited for a dog off leash, then Mr. Bassett should have been cited for firing a gun multiple times within 600 ft. of other residences.

      • Big Don March 23, 2013 at 3:19 pm

        Obviously you believe that you were not at fault, and no matter how it is pointed out to you, will never admit you are wrong. Idiot. Your dog died because of your irresponsibility. And for no other reason.

      • Hatalii March 23, 2013 at 5:21 pm

        I’m certainly glad that you are not my neighbor.

      • In Awe March 27, 2013 at 8:04 am

        Well, it is obvious that you don’t own horses, either, Mrs. Frankland. Mr. Moody stated in a comment below that horses under stress can colic and die…and that they may jump or run through a fence to get away from their chaser.
        Dogs chase …. that’s why there are leash laws. I don’t want to be bothered or chased by your dog while I am on a bike ride or a walk or any other time.
        Mr. Bassett should not have to worry about his horses escaping from being chased by dogs; not wanting to catch them is irrelevant as per the aforementioned reason.
        As for the gun being fired close to a residence, the News already quoted us the law. There are exceptions for doing what he did, so he was well within the law.
        And for you to say that he “may think dogs are disposable…” is wrong to even imply.
        I completely agree with Big Don and Hatalii who also commented on this thread.
        And Mark, who commented below, got it completely right!

      • Ellen January 20, 2014 at 7:39 pm

        Mrs Frankland YOU are RESPONSIBLE for your dogs death. Stop making excuses and stop harassing your neighbor. Take responsibility for your dogs actions. And BTW nooo not all dogs roam. I have seven dogs and my property (2 acres) is completely fenced. Even spent five grand to make sure the front fence was escape proof. I live next to a herd of sheep and I have herding dogs and they do not harass the livestock EVER. They are my responsibility. BTW here in Sonoma county there are signs posted from the highway that says dogs harassing livestock will be shot. So it’s legal.
        I hope you never get another dog again as it was your fault he was shot.

  • mary March 18, 2013 at 10:05 am

    I was recently at a park w/ my dog and a police officer immediately told me to put her back on a leash. Why?…because we have leash laws. I have also trained my dog not to go out of the front yard.(her fav place to hang out). Mr. Bassett didn’t have to shoot the dogs. Sometimes a simple phone call, or notification of some kind is all that is needed to clear things up. Though I do feel for the dog owners and their loss, the Franklands should take responsibility, and not blame others.

  • Kathleen March 18, 2013 at 12:10 pm

    I live in a rural community where everyone has dogs. A few households have livestock. Nobody ( No Dog) is perfect and the dogs have escape out of their yard (fences). If the dogs bother the livestock, the donkey and horses retaliate by kicking or biting the dogs. Horses know the different between a dog and a wolf. Being neighborly and mature, we call the dogs to us or chase them off the property, NOT shot them. If a dog become a nuisance, we call the Dog Control Officer. It is His job to take lawful action against the dog and owner.
    If your dog has never escape your property, Be Thankful. But for the majority of us that have dogs that escaped…I’m thankful for my neighbors that returned my dog safely ,as I returned their dogs.
    “Tho who live in glass house, should not throw stones”

  • Brittani March 18, 2013 at 3:03 pm

    Responsible dog owners keep their dogs under control. Regardless of the land you have or anything else, your dog should not be running loose without supervision. A mistake is a mistake, but it seems that these dogs are simply able to come and go as they please.

  • Mark March 19, 2013 at 6:10 am

    We have a ranch all fenced to keep our dogs , horses + in , the lady down the streets dog got in and was chasing our chickens so I walked down and told her to police her dog because next time it won’t come home . If its ok for your dog to get our chickens , its ok for me to get your dog .

  • Susan March 20, 2013 at 12:02 pm

    I too live rural and about 2 months ago my husband came home from work and found our dog gate open and one of our 4 dogs missing. We spent hours then days then weeks searching for her to no avail (some of you may have seen our missing dog ad on Craigslist). Our precious, loved dog was gone for ever. We always suspected that she propably went to 1 of our neighbors properties and got into something she shouldn’t have and in turn was put down for her misdeed. Sadly no one has ever admitted to us to have done this. If this is in fact the case then it is important to understand that our much loved and spoiled dog was not at fault in ths situation, the person that may have put her down is not at fault, no the fault is ours and ours alone and we will carry that guilt forever. Our pet family members depend on us to take care of them and in this instance we let our precious “Luci” down and it cost her her life.
    My property is my property and the neighbors property is their property and we should all be able to have animals and fowl without worry of intruders harming them.
    Having healthy and happy pets starts and stops at their homes with their humans!

  • Mary March 20, 2013 at 12:57 pm

    How about no one lets their dog run around on other peoples property?

    I understand that if dogs spook a horse that the horse might break out and that’s dangerous so sadly I can see why the man would shoot, though I hope he tried distracting the dogs first.

    However I blame the dogs owners for this, they KNEW the dogs were roaming around and had some stupid agreement to do it on different days. Get a freaking fence for your yards and stop letting your dogs roam around free.

  • Dee March 20, 2013 at 3:08 pm

    There is a leash law for a reason. Everyone involved needs to stop the blame game and accept responsibility for their actions. This stupid “agreement” to allow dogs to roam on even/odd days is ridiculous. You can’t just make up your own rules to suit your whims. The only losers in this are the two dogs for having irresponsible owners. May all parties involved NEVER own another dog…EVER.

  • robert cook March 20, 2013 at 4:15 pm

    humans suck too much ; all of the parties ; would it have been so hard to call the people and have them come get their dog and explain how important it was for them not to get loose in the future instead of just killing them ;someone’s kids will be next and more of the same ; it was on my property ; life and the planet BELONG to GOD I thought this was the land of righteous Christ fearing mormans sounds like the guy thinks hes rambo

  • Brad Moody March 23, 2013 at 11:44 am

    Most dog owners have common sense and know that if they allow there dogs to run loose a chance exist that they may not come home. Dogs by nature have a chase instinct, horses by nature have run for your life instinct ( as all prey animals have), so no matter how strong or high inclosure they are in, they may jump or run through it, causing them injury or loss of their safe haven, and horses under stress can colic and die (stress from dogs can cause this).
    Mr. Bassett was in his rights to protect his livestock, the dogs owner is totally responsible for the dogs death and should be thankful they know what happened to their pet. The lack of responsible pet owners have caused people to shoot, shovel and shut up!

  • sweet jude March 25, 2013 at 5:08 am

    Judas priest, get control of your life and take your share of responsibility mrs franklin. Or ask mr franklin to talk some old-fashioned sense into you. You already admitted in your post that you wanted to get even.

  • Bleeding Hearts May 22, 2013 at 4:03 pm

    To all the Bleeding hearts. Control your dogs. Keep them home and out of livestock. I am assuming that both people who lost their dogs have moved here from some liberal state. Just remember we are not a bunch on bleeding heart liberals in Utah. We have laws that work for the rural environment. We protect our livestock and our homes with deadly force if needed. If you want to live like a liberal move back to where you came from. Don’t come here and tell us we need to reform!

  • Sunny October 11, 2013 at 11:15 am

    Wow! “The responsibility of the people who used their firearm?” Looks like you are just as ignorant as the people whose dog got shot because they refused to take action to keep their dog off of another person’s property. You obviously have no clue whatsoever how much damage and injury can be caused by dogs packing up against other animals. Before you make a statement like that you should consider the THOUSANDS of dollars of vet bills can be caused by those nuisance dogs if they happen to cause a horse to jump a fence. That happened to one of my horses. Even after spending $5,000 with the vet trying to save my 2 year old filly, that promising filly had so much scarring that she couldn’t even be trained to ride or show! Even worse, you should think of what would happen if that 1,000+ lb. horse ran out in front of a car…

  • Big Mike November 23, 2013 at 9:25 am

    We have a similar problem as well. Out in the country, about 10 acres, with a few horses. Neighbors had a litter of dogs (because they failed to spay/neuter) and we have had 8 puppies grow up to harass our horses and the animals of all our other neighbors. Our little area is outraged and the folks do nothing.

    Country folks tend to take care of issues without calling the law. That said, I have personally spoke to them on four seperate occasions, and know of other neighbors that have done the same. After no luck, I called the Deputy, who basically said to shoot the dogs if I needed, and told the owners I would be justified in doing so.

    My problem is I love dogs. All animals for that matter, but dogs especially. Personally, the owners are the ones in need of a lesson, not the dogs. However, the little shit that spooked a horse this morning, pushed it too far, and wont ever bark or chase a horse again…

    Feel bad, but had to defend mine. Maybe a dead dog placed on their doorstep will illustrate the point better..

  • Sonny Reisig January 12, 2014 at 7:18 pm

    Im so glad I got the heck out of New Harmony Ut. Its exactly like PATONS PLACE up there! All the old timers fill entitled and the new comers are hated. Its like grade school. Enjoy your frozen kingdom.
    Sonny Reisig

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