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3/6/11 5:25 P

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Man faces misdemeanor charge of animal cruelty after his dog kills young raccoon that caused some damage to garage

Seth Foster, 23, said he found his family garage in disarray last summer and sent his dog in the building to investigate.

Grizz, a blue heeler, returned with the culprit, a young raccoon.

As two teenage boys watched, one of them filming its actions with a cell phone, Grizz killed the coon, Foster said.

Now, Foster is facing a misdemeanor charge of animal cruelty resulting in death, which is punishable by up to a year in jail, not more than a $2,000 fine and up to 300 hours of community service. A jury trial is scheduled for Feb. 25 in Jackson County District Court.

“It’s ridiculous,” he said of the charge. “Everybody I’ve talked to says it’s ridiculous.”

There is a proper way to deal with a pest and it does not involve animal agony, said Chief Assistant Prosecutor Mark Blumer. Raccoons can be trapped alive or quickly and efficiently killed, he said.

Blumer said the dog was encouraged to attack the raccoon and “tear it apart.” He likened this to cockfighting or dogfighting, both of which are illegal. “There is legitimate sport, and then there’s cruel sport,” he said.

“Because you have a license to kill a deer, doesn’t mean you can break all its legs and watch it die slowly.”

He said the prosecutor’s office offered Foster a “reasonable settlement,” the details of which Blumer did not know, but Foster declined to take it. “I am innocent,” Foster said.

The two boys also were charged. Their cases were handled by the juvenile court and diverted, which means no legal record of an alleged wrongdoing exists upon completion of a court-ordered program.

Foster said the boys lived near his family at the time and would sometimes come to their home. They egged on the dog, he said. Foster said he took the raccoon from Grizz, but the dog got it back.

It did not take Grizz, a smaller herding dog, a long time to kill the animal, Foster said. The prosecutor's office has about two or more minutes of cell phone footage in five different clips.

A neighbor’s mother called the police, Foster said, and a deputy arrived. According to court records, the incident occurred Aug. 1.

The dog helps Foster and his father, Mike Foster, locate raccoons in attics or small crawl spaces while the Fosters do their work. They catch the animals and sometimes euthanize them.

Mike Foster owns Foster’s Wildlife Control Services. He’s been in the business for about 30 years. The company specializes in trapping, removing and excluding nuisance wildlife. He said he and his son hunt and the family primarily eats wild meat.

In all his work with animals, Mike Foster said he has seen worse than a dog killing a coon. “People put out antifreeze for animals to poison,” he said.

“You can’t call one thing cruel and let other stuff slide.”

The whole incident has been “blown out of proportion,” he said. “To me, it’s no different than if you buy a cat to kill mice.”

There is a difference, Blumer said. The killing of mice is not controlled.

There are trapping and hunting seasons for raccoons. According to the Michigan Department of Natural Resources and Environment, a property owner without a license or permit may kill a raccoon all year if the animal is damaging or about to damage private property.

Mike and Seth Foster said the raccoon Grizz killed put a hole in the garage. It damaged a door, ate stored bird feed and knocked tools off a work bench. It was “raising hell,” Mike Foster said.

Dogs cannot be used in Michigan to kill game, only to chase, retrieve or find it, a DNRE spokeswoman said.

Blumer said it would be different if the dog had gotten the raccoon on its own and killed it without human intervention. In that case, it’s nature.





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