Tuesday November 27, 2012

KEITH WHITCOMB JR.

Staff Writer

BENNINGTON -- A former Sheriff’s Department deputy pleaded not guilty Monday to allegedly shooting a neighbor’s dog in August.

Donald Loveland, 51, of Kings Way in Pownal, was charged with a misdemeanor count of cruelty to animals and released on conditions he not have contact with the dog’s owner, Amber Kilbride, or her stepmother, Melissa Kilbride.

Loveland had been suspended by the Bennington County Sheriff’s Department when the investigation by Vermont State Police began, as per department policies, however he later resigned.

"We are preparing our defense which will likely include motion to dismiss based on 13 VSA 351b which permits certain actions, including the killing of an animal under proscribed preconditions," wrote Loveland’s attorney, William D. Wright, in an email.

The law allows a person to kill a domestic dog when said dog is attacking another domestic animal or person.

According to an affidavit by Vermont State Police Detective Trooper Todd Wilkins, on Aug. 27 Trooper Lewis Hatch went to Kings Way in response to a complaint made by the Kilbrides. There he spoke to Amber Kilbride, who said on Aug. 26 she heard two gunshots and became concerned for her dog, Maxx. She said she discovered the dog had slipped its collar, and went looking for it. She told police she went to Loveland’s home, but no one answered the door. Later she saw Loveland driving down the road and attempted to get him to stop but he ignored her and kept driving.

Amber Kilbride said on Aug. 27 she went with her step mother to Loveland’s home and waited in the car while Melissa Kilbride spoke to Loveland. According to the Kilbrides, Loveland told them the dog had been after his chickens, and had attacked both his girlfriend and her dog. He said he shot at the dog twice.

According to the affidavit, Hatch spoke to Loveland who said he has had chickens and a cat go missing, and on Aug. 26 a brown pit bull, which fit Maxx’s description, came onto his property and went for Loveland’s chicken coop. Loveland told police the pit bull was also bothering a guest of his and her dog so he shot at it twice with a .22 caliber rifle. Loveland said he was unsure if he hit the dog. According to the affidavit, Loveland said he would come to the state police barracks in Shaftsbury to give a written statement, but ultimately did not and instead had Wright contact police.

Wilkins wrote that on Sept. 4 Melissa Kilbride informed police she had received an anonymous call telling her the dog was likely dead and she should look near water. The caller, according to Kilbride, also said Loveland was bragging about having shot at the dog.

Wilkins wrote that on Sept. 5, Melissa Kilbride led Hatch to the body of a dog she identified as being Maxx near a swampy area about 300 yards from Kings Way. The body was severely decomposed and had been fed on by scavengers. The body was taken by local Game Warden Travis Buttle to the West Mountain Animal Hospital in Bennington where fragments of a .22 caliber bullet were found inside it, after the body was x-rayed.

According to Wilkins, a search warrant was executed on Loveland’s home on Sept. 22. Police found a .22 caliber handgun inside a gun cabinet along with ammunition for other types of firearms. Wilkins wrote that Loveland told police he had given the other guns away and would not answer questions about the ammunition. The .22 handgun was seized and sent to the Vermont Forensics Laboratory for analysis along with ammunition for it. Wilkins wrote that on Oct. 17, Loveland arrived at the Shaftsbury barracks for processing but would not provide fingerprints or a photograph.