Delaware County deputy’s dogs fatally shot by neighbor; no laws broken

EATON, Ind. – A sheriff’s deputy in Delaware County is mourning the loss of his two dogs after they were shot and killed by his neighbor. But according to Indiana law, the neighbor didn’t do anything wrong, and he was protecting his property.

Capt. John Holding rescued Hurley, a 7-year-old pit bull, and Della, a 1-year-old border collie from the animal shelter. The dogs were indoor dogs, but Holding says occasionally when Della was in heat she ran away.

Holding lives on 16 acres of land with no neighbors on either side, but he does have neighbors across the street from him.

Last Wednesday, the dogs were out with his wife when Della saw another dog chasing a car down the road. Della took off after the dog and Hurley followed her.

Holding’s wife tried calling them back, but they didn’t listen.

The dogs eventually ended up in the yard across the street from Holding’s land. Jeff Clawson owns that property.

A passerby saw the dogs chasing Clawson’s goats, and he stopped to warn Clawson.

Clawson went outside and shot the dogs once each. The dogs ran to the back of the property, but it was fenced in and they couldn’t get away.

Clawson’s nephew then shot the dogs again and killed them.

“They for sure were not going to go back toward the barn to get out after being shot there. They most certainly would have never returned anyway after being shot once. It is also upsetting for the brutal nature of their deaths. They were shot close range with a shotgun to the head,” said Holding.

The incident was the second time Holding’s dogs got loose and went after Clawson’s livestock. In December, Holding’s dogs got under Clawson’s fence and killed a sheep and injured two others.

“I took full responsibility,” Holding told the Muncie Star Press. “I paid to replace the sheep that was killed and paid medical bills for the others. He said then, ‘If they come again, I’ll put them down.'”

“I feel bad it had to come to that. But it’s the second time it happened. I can’t continue on, continue replacing livestock. No one is a winner,” Clawson told the Muncie Star Press.

Holding says he is devastated, and it’s like losing a member of the family.

“We take full responsibility for the dogs getting out and harming his goats. And I don’t want to minimize the harm to the goats. They didn’t deserve that either. However he did sell the sheep he had after the first incident. There was no emotional attachment to them. He normally raises hogs to slaughter. I told him he had a right to protect his property and shoot if he felt the need to. I just believe he made up his mind if the dogs ever came back they were not going to leave the property alive,” said Holding.

According to Indiana law, Clawson did not do anything illegal when he killed the animals; there was no police report filed about the incident, and there is no investigation.

“The law protects farmers, and this gentleman is a farmer,” said Muncie Animal Shelter director Phil Peckinpaugh. “If a farmer believes even a domesticated animal can endanger their livestock, that is their legal right to take the action he took. Whether I ethically or morally agree with that, the law is clear.”