Wilson appeals his conviction of first degree animal cruelty,
which arose from an incident at an archery club when Wilson
shot a large dog with an arrow after that dog had attacked
Wilson's small dog. Wilson argues that his action was
lawful under RCW 16.08.020, which states that it is lawful
for a person to kill a dog seen chasing, biting, or injuring
a domestic animal on real property that person owns, leases,
that although the trial court did not err in denying
Wilson's motion to dismiss under RCW 16.08.020, the trial
court erred in refusing to give Wilson's proposed jury
instruction based on RCW 16.08.020 and this error was not
harmless because the trial court's to-convict instruction
introduced an element of Wilson's defense that was
inconsistent with RCW 16.08.020. Accordingly, we reverse
Wilson's conviction and remand for further proceedings.
14, 2017, "Dozer," a 70 pound dog, ran across the
highway south of Aberdeen to the Grays Harbor Bowmen Club.
Within minutes, he returned home to his owner with an arrow
protruding from his rear end. Dozer was in pain but
eventually recovered from the injury.
deputy sheriff viewed a surveillance video from the archery
club and interviewed Wilson, a club member. Wilson admitted
shooting Dozer with an arrow. He explained that Dozer had
attacked his dog "Little Bit", had Little Bit in
his mouth and was shaking him, and let him go after Wilson
approached yelling. The State charged Wilson with first
degree animal cruelty.
trial, Wilson moved for dismissal under CrR 8.3(c), claiming
that he had a statutory right to shoot Dozer under RCW
16.08.020. In support of the motion, Wilson submitted a
declaration stating that he saw Dozer biting and shaking
Little Bit. However, the declaration did not address whether
he had control over the club property when the incident
occurred. The trial court denied the motion.
trial, Wilson testified that he was a member of the archery
club and had a key to the club's gate, indoor range, and
clubhouse. On the day of the incident, he went to the club
and brought Little Bit with him. While he was shooting,
Wilson heard Little Bit screaming. He saw that Dozer had
Little Bit and was shaking her. Wilson ran toward the dogs,
and Dozer dropped Little Bit and moved about 10 feet away.
But Dozer was pacing back and forth, and Wilson thought that
he was waiting for another chance to attack Little Bit.
Dozer moved toward the road, Wilson shot the dog in the rear
end with an arrow. Wilson stated that he was not trying to
hurt Dozer and that he could have killed the dog if he had
proposed the following jury instruction based on the
statutory language of RCW 16.08.020:
It is a defense to a charge of Animal Cruelty that the dog
was chasing, biting, injuring or killing any sheep, swine or
other domestic animal, including poultry, belonging to such
person, on any real property owned or leased by, or under the
control of, such person.
The State has the burden of proving beyond a reasonable doubt
that the force used by the defendant was not lawful. If you
find that the State has not proved the absence of this
defense beyond a reasonable doubt, it will be your duty to
return a verdict of not guilty.
Clerk's Papers (CP) at 99-100.
trial court declined to give Wilson's proposed
instruction. The court ruled that RCW 16.08.020 applied only
when a dog was injuring stock animals and did not apply when
a dog was injuring another dog. The court stated that the
statute "is designed for stock animals and it wasn't
intended for this particular situation." Report of
Proceedings (July 18, 2017) at 90.
the trial court recognized that the common law allowed the
owner of an animal to take reasonably necessary action in
defense of that animal. The court also recognized, and the
State agreed, that this was a defense that the State was
required to disprove beyond a reasonable doubt. Therefore,
the court's to-convict instruction required the State to
prove beyond a reasonable doubt that Wilson's actions
"were not in defense of his dog, and were not reasonably
necessary." CP at 31.
jury found Wilson guilty of first degree animal cruelty.