A Bayfield man pleaded guilty this week to shooting a Great Dane with an air-powered pellet gun, inflicting a wound that killed the animal earlier this year, court documents show.
Wesley Zufelt, 78, was sentenced to one year unsupervised probation Tuesday after admitting to La Plata County Court Judge Dondi Osborne that he killed his neighbors’ dog, Bailey, a 5-year-old Great Dane. The court fined Zufelt $306.50 and ordered him to pay restitution to the dog’s owners, Jennifer and Brad Loutherback, although the exact amount has not yet been calculated by the District Attorney’s Office.
The Bayfield Marshal’s Office accused Zufelt of cruelty to animals, a Class 1 misdemeanor with penalties ranging from six to 18 months in jail, $500 to $5,000 in fines or both. Osborne ordered Zufelt to pay a $500 misdemeanor fine but suspended the fee in light of forthcoming restitution costs.
Prosecutors also charged Zufelt with prohibited and reckless use of a firearm but dismissed the count as part of a plea agreement.
Law enforcement said Zufelt shot Bailey, the Great Dane, in May. Brad Loutherback said at the time that Bailey got a case of the “zoomies” – when she “runs like a horse” – and wandered into Zufelt’s yard and onto his porch.
Zufelt saw the dog and grabbed a pellet gun sitting next to a couch in his north Bayfield home, according to Bayfield Marshal Joseph McIntyre.
Zufelt walked to a sliding glass window in the back of his house, opened it and aimed the gun at the dog, McIntyre said. He pointed the gun toward a road and the front yard where two girls were playing, McIntyre said. Had he missed, the shot could have traveled across the road.
The Loutherbacks reported hearing Bailey yelp and seeing her limp as she walked across Tamarack Drive to their North Palo Verde Drive property. The pellet nicked Bailey’s aorta.
Brad Loutherback said veterinarians at Bayfield Animal Hospital performed surgery for 3½ hours, and by early evening – with five stitches on her heart – Bailey was in stable condition.
But she had lost 2½ liters of blood in the operation, Loutherback said, and veterinarians told him the next 24 hours were critical. Bailey died about midnight with a Bayfield Animal Hospital employee by her side, Loutherback said.
Brad Loutherback could not immediately be reached for comment.