There was no contention in court Thursday over whether a West Valley City man shot his neighbor's dog. The issues, if criminal charges proceed to trial, involve whether the shooting was defensible and whether the man threatened the dog's owner with the same gun.
Gary Deloy Griffiths, 61, is charged with third-degree felony assault and misdemeanor aggravated cruelty to animals in connection with the Sept. 10 shooting of a Pomeranian named Ozzie that belonged his back-fence neighbor, Ryan Pahl.
It wasn't until after testimony ended in a Thursday preliminary hearing that Griffiths' attorney, Bevan Corry, suggested the shooting was justified because Griffiths was coming to the defense of a neighborhood cat. Corry contends Griffiths never threatened Pahl.
Griffiths did not speak during the hearing.
West Valley City police officer Ricardo Franco, who questioned Griffiths after the shooting, said Griffiths reported seeing the dog in his back yard with a neighborhood cat in its mouth. "He got his rifle and shot the dog and said the cat took off running."
Pahl testified he was in his house eating lunch when he heard a popping sound and looked outside to see Griffiths standing in his own yard with a rifle, the dog leaning against Pahl's house, whimpering.
"I jumped the fence to go to Ozzie's aid," he said. "I said are you 'expletive' crazy? He answered 'yes.' "
Pahl said Griffiths had a rifle at his hip and pointed it at him after he entered Pahl's yard. Pahl said after the hearing he was close enough to the muzzle of the gun to see sunlight reflecting off of the rifling marks inside the barrel.
Franco said Griffiths characterized Pahl as "aggressive."
"He said he felt threatened by Mr. Pahl's actions. He said he pointed his gun in Pahl's direction but didn't point it at him," the officer said.
A veterinarian treated Ozzy's multiple gunshot wounds but the dog was later euthanized after the dog's condition continued to deteriorate, Pahl said.
Corry said the circumstances establish Griffiths brandished a weapon but not that he threatened Pahl.
Third District Judge Judith Atherton scheduled a Dec. 14 arraignment on the charges.
Two related animal-rights groups promoting "Henry's Law," a proposal that would make certain acts of animal torture a felony, attended Thursday's hearings.
The argument that shooting a dog is justified to protect a cat doesn't wash with Rhonda Kamper, whose dog, Henry, was put in a hot oven by her former husband and is the namesake of the "Henry's Law" movement.
"I think that's a bunch of hogwash," Kamper said. "If he was protecting the cat, why did he shoot the dog?"
Animal rights advocacy group Henry'slaw.com has filed a "friend of the court" brief in the case, urging the court to impose the maximum sentence of a year in jail and a $2,500 fine for the class A misdemeanor charge of aggravated cruelty to an animal.
The organization also urged the court to order therapy for Griffiths as well as community service.If convicted, Griffiths also faces a potential prison term of zero-to-five years in prison for the aggravated assault charge and, potentially, a term of six months in jail for a third charge of discharging a firearm, a class B misdemeanor.