Jury grants Durango woman $235 in dog-shooting case

Friday, May 3, 2013 6:06 PM
Devon Pollack won two of the five claims against the person who shot her dog, Bula.

A Durango woman was awarded $235 by a jury after she sued a man for shooting and killing her dog, which ran onto the man’s property and killed two of his chickens.

Devon Pollack left her dog, Bula, in the care of two friends when she went to spend Thanksgiving with her family in 2011. Bula was let out of the house without a leash and ran up the hill behind the house on East Animas Road (County Road 250). The dog did not respond to multiple calls, and the friends heard two gunshots in the vicinity a short time later, according to the complaint filed in District Court.

Bruce Bell was initially the defendant until Pollack and her attorney, Katherine Burke, realized he was not the one who shot the dog. Bell’s friend, Daniel Percell, was on the property at the time and shot Bula after he started killing Bell’s chickens.

A six-person jury deliberated for about three hours Wednesday before returning a verdict in Pollack’s favor on two of the five claims. The jury ruled Percell violated La Plata County code when he shot Bula and took unauthorized control over Pollack’s property.

The jury granted Pollack $235 to reimburse her for the autopsy she had performed on Bula and the dog’s cremation.

“I think there was some sympathy on the side of the jury that she should be given something, because she did lose something,” said Durango lawyer Richard Emmett, who represented Bell and Percell. “They really didn’t seem to think it was Mr. Bell or Mr. Percell’s fault she lost something, but they awarded something anyway.”

Emmett said he’s concerned about the precedent the case sets in La Plata County.

“Animal control did an investigation and they did not find probable cause. There were reports indicating the shooting of the dog was justified and legal,” he said.

Burke was happy with the verdict, though she expected Pollack to be awarded more money. She was seeking damages for the cost of the dog and an unspecified amount for emotional distress.

The low amount awarded to Pollack does send a message that “the law still has a hard time properly valuing our companion animals,” she said.

Pollack and Percell can appeal the jury’s decision.