Shootings of show dogs are mystery Hampstead couple stunned by slayings of Siberian huskies

Dogs were their 'children'

Local woman found bodies on her lawn, but heard no gunfire

April 22, 1996|By Jackie Powder | Jackie Powder,SUN STAFF

At this time of year, Grace and Tony Mazzuca usually are traveling up and down the East Coast on the dog show circuit with their two Siberian huskies, Gus and Kristal.

But this spring, the Hampstead couple is at home, wondering who could have shot and killed their cherished show dogs.

The bodies of the two dogs were found April 3 on the lawn of a home near Sullivan Road -- Gus shot twice in the head at close range, and Kristal with one gunshot in the back of the neck.

"Between my husband and me, I don't know who's in worse shape," Mrs. Mazzuca said. "These dogs were my children, my companions, and they were my show dogs.

"I live for my dogs, and so does my husband."

In Carroll County, where many residents own guns and agriculture is the leading industry, it's not uncommon for a family pet to become the victim of target practice or to be killed by a farmer protecting his livestock.

"I grew up in Baltimore County, and there's a much different mentality toward animals in a rural county," said Peggy Terl, who runs a cat rescue shelter in Hampstead. "People don't see animals as pets; they see them as livestock or threats to livestock."

Dr. Tom Ryan, the Westminster veterinarian who had treated Gus and Kristal since they were puppies, said he frequently sees animals wounded by gunshot. He once tried to save a cockateel that was shot in its cage on the front porch of the owner's home.

"There's enough people out there who unfortunately have no conscience about what they shoot," Dr. Ryan said.

"I don't think people feel guilty about shooting animals for target practice," he said.

Gus, 7, was an American Kennel Club champion show dog, and Kristal, 4, also was a show dog accumulating points toward a championship.

The Mazzucas, who have no children at home, spent much of their time caring for the dogs and preparing them for shows.

Mr. Mazzuca estimates that Gus was worth at least $10,000 and Kristal was about $5,000.

"They're Siberian huskies, they were clean and groomed," he said. "Somebody should have known they weren't a pack of wild dogs."

The Mazzucas discovered that Gus and Kristal were missing from their fenced yard April 2 when Mrs. Mazzuca called for them to come inside after their evening run. The dogs apparently had escaped by digging under a fence.

Over the next few days, the Mazzucas contacted shelters in Maryland and Pennsylvania, and distributed more than 1,000 fliers with pictures of their dogs from Westminster to Reisterstown.

On April 5, the Mazzucas learned that a woman had found two dead Siberian huskies outside her home near Sullivan Road, not far from the Mazzucas' home, the day after the dogs had disappeared.

Maryland State Police Trooper William Corun, who is investigating the shootings, said the woman did not hear gunshots, leading him to believe that the dogs probably were killed somewhere else and dumped where they were found.

Trooper Corun said the dogs appear to have been shot with a .22-caliber rifle.

"At this point I don't have any leads at all," he said.

Nicky Ratliff, director of Carroll County's Humane Society, said that farmers frequently carry .22-caliber weapons or "varmint rifles" to kill groundhogs or dogs that are bothering their livestock.

Under state law, farmers are permitted to shoot and kill animals if they are pursuing or attacking livestock.

"Now whether or not he should shoot them, depending on the situation, is a whole other ballgame," Ms. Ratliff said. "But farmers are not happy about seeing their animals hurt or their profits destroyed."

Dr. Ryan, who performed autopsies on Gus and Kristal, said it's unlikely that the two dogs were killed because they were attacking livestock.

"It could have been kids driving by out for a big time and they decide to shoot a dog," he said. "Some people will shoot anything that moves."

Since the dogs were killed, the Mazzucas have been spending their weekends doing landscaping work in their back yard -- anything to help take their minds off their loss.

They recently planted two pink dogwood trees as a memorial to Gus and Kristal.

"We're both suffering pretty bad right now," Mr. Mazzuca said.

Anyone with information about the shooting of Gus and Kristal should call Maryland State Police at (410) 875-5418. The Mazzucas are offering a $1,000 reward to anyone with information leading to the identification of the dogs' killer.

Pub Date: 4/22/96

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