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Civil trial begins against man sued by neighbors for shooting dogs

April 26, 2010|By DON AINES

HAGERSTOWN -- Testimony began Monday in Washington County Circuit Court in the civil trial of a Williamsport man who is being sued for shooting neighbors' dogs in 2007 and 2008.

Jeffrey L. Hurd, 56, of 11845 Camden Road, is being sued by Arthur and Sonja Pereschuk, James Jr. and Renee Rudolph, and Eric and Mary Haberkorn for intentional infliction of emotional distress and several nuisance claims, according to court records. The trial is scheduled to last up to 10 days, court records stated.

Hurd was charged criminally two years ago in the May 8, 2008, shooting of Harley, a German shepherd belonging to the Rudolphs, according to court records. He was also charged with the July 22, 2007, shooting of Bristol, a Labrador retriever belonging to the Pereschuks, who are Renee Rudolph's parents, court records stated.

Hurd was convicted of two counts each of mutilating an animal and malicious destruction of property for killing the dogs, court records stated. However, the Maryland Court of Special Appeals reversed the mutilation and malicious destruction charges from the 2007 shooting of the Labrador retriever as it chased a deer on Hurd's property, court records stated.

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Under the Natural Resources provision of the Maryland Code, it was lawful for Hurd to shoot a dog chasing a deer, the Court of Special Appeals ruling stated.

"In Maryland, any person may shoot any dog chasing any deer," Hurd's attorney, William Wantz, said in his opening statement.

The plaintiffs have experienced "life with the blinds down ... a feeling of being prisoners in their own house" since the shootings, their attorney, D. Bruce Poole, said in his opening statement. The Rudolphs and Pereschuks have seen Hurd on the perimeter of his adjoining property "marching back and forth with a gun on his shoulder," Poole told the jury.

Some of the plaintiffs have also seen Hurd making obscene gestures and mouthing death threats, Poole said. Some have had to seek counseling, Poole said.

The plaintiffs are seeking financial compensation for the losses they sustained and costs they have incurred, punishment by further monetary damages and "a strong court order" to stop Hurd's activities, Poole said.

Wantz told the nine-member jury that to prevail in the complaints of intentional infliction of emotional distress, the plaintiffs would need to show they were unable "to carry on the normal activities of life" as a result of the shootings, and that killing the dogs was meant to inflict distress.

"If you shoot a dog, are you taking action against the owner or protecting the life of a wild animal?" Wantz asked the jury.

In shooting the dogs, there was no intent to harm the owners, Wantz said.

As to the nuisance complaints, which included Hurd blocking the road with heavy equipment, operating equipment at night, piling brush near the adjoining property lines and shooting firearms on his property, Wantz said these were normal in a farming operation in a rural area, or were one-time occurrences that did not constitute a nuisance.

Since the dogs were shot, Renee Rudolph testified she is afraid to allow her children outside alone. She testified that, after one of the dogs was shot, there was an argument with Hurd during which he threatened to shoot her if she didn't get off his property.

On cross-examination, Rudolph testified the family had an underground electric fence to keep Harley on their property, but the dog had been going through it in the weeks before it was shot.

The Rudolphs' son, Bradley, testified that the day Harley was killed, he at first feared that it was his father who was shot.

A consent order dismissing claims against Hurd by John and Judy Durham and Durham Enterprises was signed last week, according to court records. A consent order dismissing claims by the plaintiffs against John Hurd, Jeffrey Hurd's father, was signed in November, according to court records.

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