For four days, Trisa Lewis scoured the Harbeson area looking for her family's pure white Siberian Husky. She said she, her husband and their three children posted fliers of their 8-month-old dog, Sela, as far as Savannah Road in Lewes and at stores along Route 1, hoping someone would call to say they found her.
Someone did call, but it wasn't the kind of information any pet owner would want to hear.
"We got an anonymous tip that she was shot and killed," Lewis said.
Lewis contacted police and animal control Dec. 11 to report her suspicions, which turned out to be true, said Kevin Usilton, director of Kent County SPCA, the group that handles Sussex County animal control.
Usilton said the dog was running loose on the property of M & D Bird Farm and was threatening to kill some turkeys when the property owner shot the dog.
"The owner has the right to shoot the dog if it's an immediate threat," he said.
Eric McGinnis, store manager for M&D, said the dog had killed a turkey and other animals on the property, owned by Terri Martin. Overall, Martin said, 15 ducks and chickens are missing from her property and she believes they were killed by another animal.
In an email explaining the events Dec. 7, Martin wrote:
McGinnis was outside when he saw a white dog chasing a turkey. The dog caught the turkey by the neck, and McGinnis pried open the dog's mouth to release the turkey. The dog then tried to enter a pen containing chickens and ducks. Martin got a gun, and the couple fired a couple of shots to scare the dog away. When gunshots failed to stop the dog, the dog was shot.
Usilton said pet owners must make sure their animals do not run at large. In Sela's case, Lewis said, she slipped out of her collar while on a walk with her 11-year-old son.
"Huskies are infamous for getting out of their property and killing small animals," Usilton said.
Lewis said her family has been devastated by the loss of their pet.
"She was the most gentle dog you ever met. She'd roll over and want you to rub her belly. She wasn't vicious at all," she said.
When Lewis' husband, Raymond Dicus, found out their neighbors at M & D Bird Farm on Route 9 were involved with their dog's death, he confronted the store manager, said Cpl. Gary Fournier of the Delaware State Police.
Martin said a man came to the store about 5 p.m. Dec. 11 and asked about the dog. The couple explained what happened; the man left and returned with Dicus, she said.
McGinnis told Dicus that he shot the dog because it was on his property and killed one of his turkeys, Fournier said.
Martin said Dicus and the other man attacked McGinnis and punched him several times. Computers and other office equipment were broken during the scuffle; Kent County SPCA's Usilton said a cage containing finches fell to the floor and some were killed during the fight.
Martin said Dicus stepped on three birds and killed them.
The two men left and, Martin said, she locked the door and called 911. Outside, she said, the two men and a woman banged on the door and damaged a sign before police arrived.
Dicus was charged with criminal mischief and offensive touching and released on $1,000 unsecured bond.
Lewis said she realizes that the Route 9 area near Cool Springs has a problem with pitbulls running loose, but she does not understand how someone could confuse her pure white husky with a pitbull.
"I would've paid a fine or whatever," she said. "He didn't have to shoot my dog."