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'Wolf Dog' From NJ Sanctuary Mistakenly Killed By Hunter

Hunter was shot and killed by a hunter thinking he was a coyote.
Hunter was shot and killed by a hunter thinking he was a coyote. Photo Credit: Jennifer Heller

A hunter who mistakenly killed a Pennsylvania family's dog thinking he was a coyote will not face charges, state officials tell the Philadelphia Inquirer.

The 8-year-old malamute mix named "Hunter" was adopted over the summer by the Heller family, of Richmond Township in Berks County, from the Howling Woods Farm in Jackson, NJ, Jennifer Heller tells Daily Voice. The farm cares for dogs with wolves in their family history, its website says, and aims to educate the public on wolf dogs.

Jennifer Heller told the story on social media, explaining her husband, Chris Heller, left to walk the dog Hunter and their other dog Freya, a German Shepherd, on Saturday, Jan. 7.

Chris put the dogs' reflective collars and harnesses and headed toward the walking path by their house, Jennifer said. At some point, Chris encountered a group of deer hunters, and stopped to chat and let them know which path he'd be taking.

Moments later, Hunter was shot in the gut by a hunter with a scope on his rifle, Heller said.

"My husband yelled, 'Who shot my dog?'" she writes. "He carried Hunter approx. a 100 yards screaming for help. Two hunters rushed to his aide."

The hunter who shot the dog apparently watched as two men and Heller loaded the dog on a cart, and raced to the vet. The dog died before they arrived, and as of Jan. 16, the family has yet to receive an apology, the family says.

"At the time, my husband told the game commission he didn’t want to talk with the man but that doesn’t mean he didn’t want an apology and some show of remorse," Jennifer said in a statement to Daily Voice. 

"I have offered to speak with him and listen to his side of the story and maybe we could work together to make sure something like this doesn’t happen again. I have assured the game commission that I wouldn’t put his name on social media. They said he’s afraid to come forward because of the social media and have asked me at least twice to 'pull back' on the social media."

On a GoFundMe page launched for legal fees, the Hellers say Hunter was a sweet and intelligent dog — "gentle with the Hellers’ young grandchildren, immediate best buddies with the other animals in the home, and a loving companion who would do anything for a good piece of cheese," it reads.

"One of the most important rules of hunting is to know what you’re shooting, and when this man shot despite that he snuffed out the life of a wonderful pet who had a lot more life and love to share."

Because the shooting was a "case of mistaken identity," the hunter who killed the Hellers' dog will not face repercussions as no laws were violated, the Philadelphia Inquirer reports.

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