GRAND RAPIDS, Mich. (WOOD) — The victim in an apparent shooting death in Grand Rapids over the weekend was a 15-year-old poodle-terrier mix who weighed 16 pounds and stood a foot high.
“He was just my buddy and I just want to know who would do such a cruel thing to an animal,” said Vevily Bailey.
She owned Tigger, but he was also known to others along Sigsbee Street SE because he would often wander the neighborhood, as do other pets.
“He became part of the family to many, from the youngest to the oldest — grandpa Tigger, cousin Tigger, uncle Tigger, brother Tigger. That’s who he was,” Bailey said.
Sometime before 5:30 a.m. Saturday, Tigger bolted out the door, as he was apt to do when he wanted to do his business and visit some neighbors. Bailey knew something was wrong within a few minutes.
“I heard six gunshots, I heard three and then there was a slight pause and then there were three more,” Bailey said.
She soon got a call from her daughter.
“She said, ‘Well, Tigger is down here at the bus stop. He’s dead. He probably got hit by a car or something.’ And I said, ‘No, he didn’t get hit by a car, he was murdered,'” Bailey said. “They were probably chasing him because the first three shots was close and there was a pause and the next three shots were even closer.”
Bailey said that based on what she knows, the dog was shot nearby and then ran. There was blood in the middle of the street.
“We believe that he collapsed in the street and someone brought him and put him on the bus stop,” Bailey said.
In shock, they called police in the afternoon.
“It does look like there was a gunshot wound to the dog,” Grand Rapids Police Department Sgt. Cathy Williams said. “Any time you shoot a dog and it was not in self-defense, obviously that’s a crime and this is being investigated by one of our Major Case Team detectives.”
After one day of investigating, Williams said there are no suspects.
“We’re all devastated, we all want to know why,” Bailey said of her family and neighbors.
She wants the people who killed her dog be caught.
“I miss him dearly, I do, and just hope I can pull myself together. But I just want to know why,” Bailey said. “I am so sad that I can’t hardly think straight, but I don’t want to think ill of the person that did this. I just want justice to be served on them.”
“(People) consider (pets) family members, so this hits home with everyone just like a member of a family that died, so we do take this seriously,” Williams said.
The courts take similar crimes seriously but attorney Ginny Mikita, who has specialized in animal protection law for nearly 30 years, says there is work to be done on the legal front.
“I’ve seen change but it’s been very slow. Animals are still considered property in the state of Michigan. They don’t have special status,” Mikita said.
There have been increasing penalties for crimes against animals but it is still up to police, prosecutors and judges to enforce those crimes and penalties.
“Right now, a felony in Michigan can land you 10 years in jail — ‘can’ being the operative word,” Mikita said. “The numbers of people who are actually charged with animal cruelty is minimal and of those, the number that actually do any time for their crimes is miniscule.”
She says not all dogs are treated the same. If it were an aggressive breed like a pit bull, she believes there would be less impetus to prosecute.
“When we’re dealing with a dog that’s a poodle breed, that’s going to be something that, I suspect, will cause sufficient outrage,” Mikita said.
Studies indicate that crimes against animals can develop into crimes against humans.
“Most of the really heinous crimes over time that have made the national news, in almost all of those circumstances, those people began their crime sprees with animals,” Mikita said.
Police say whoever killed Tigger could be a problem beyond the dog assassination.
“We have someone going around who is armed that’s shooting off a gun in the city, that’s serious. Whether someone was struck or not, we take that very seriously,” Williams said.
Bailey just hopes the case is solved.
“I’m really kind of terrified right now and so are the other neighbors,” she said.
If you have information about Tigger’s death, you can call Silent Observer at 616.774.2345.