State dismisses charge against woman accused of killing pet dog


BENNINGTON — The state has dismissed a felony charge against a woman accused of killing her pet dog following her argument that it was police who killed the animal.

The Bennington County State's Attorney's Office dismissed last month Joyce Cornell's charge of aggravated cruelty to an animal by causing undue pain.

Cornell, 46, of Sandgate, still faces another felony charge: aggravated cruelty to an animal by torture. It is punishable by up to five years in prison.

Authorities initially alleged that she killed her family's pet dog. Vermont State Police said they found the Great Dane on the Cornells' property on Dec. 26, hooked to a line and bleeding heavily.

Cornell told investigators that she'd shot the dog twice after it attacked her. Later that day, state police said they euthanized the dog at the suggestion of Second Chance Animal Center in Arlington, where the dog had been adopted.

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In a court filing in June, Cornell asked the Vermont Superior Court to dismiss her charge of killing the dog. After being shot by Cornell, the Great Dane remained alive for at least six hours, the last three under the "exclusive control" of state police and the animal shelter, wrote defense attorney Rick Burgoon.

"The uncontroverted facts make clear that she did not kill the animal," Burgoon said. "The undisputed facts establish that after being left to bleed for an additional three hours, law enforcement, under instructions from Second Chance, factually and legally killed the dog."

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The lawyer said a state police sergeant, who euthanized the dog with three gunshots, has given a sworn statement that he'd put down the dog.

Deputy State's Attorney Alex Burke, who is prosecuting the case, dismissed the charge in a July 10 filing, according to court records.

Cornell had also asked the court to dismiss her other felony charge of torturing the animal, stating the dog had attacked her and that she'd shot the animal without evil intent to cause harm.

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The state opposed the request for dismissal, saying Cornell intentionally shot the dog twice and left it to suffer from the gunshot wounds for several hours. The court scheduled a hearing Sept. 15 where both sides would present their arguments.

Cornell also is charged with a misdemeanor, giving false information to a law enforcement officer.

The criminal case against her husband, Scott Cornell, is also ongoing. He'd been charged with 20 counts of prohibited possession of a firearm after state police found nearly two dozen firearms at their home. Both are free from jail on bond.

Contact Tiffany Tan at or @tiffgtan on Facebook and Twitter.


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