South Dakota Kennel Owners Dogpile on Puppy-Killer Kristi Noem

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Every dog has its day—and Cricket’s appears to be nigh.

News that South Dakota Gov. Kristi Noem (R) shot and killed a 14-month-old wirehaired pointer two decades ago after determining it was “less than worthless” as a bird hunter has been met with near-universal condemnation and outrage, with some of the loudest voices being those of professional animal handlers, including rescues and kennels that specialize in the breed.

“At 14 months it’s not like a puppy, it is still a puppy,” Dan Griffith, a Sioux Falls breeder and the owner of Griffs Grassland Kennel, told The Daily Beast, “and in my opinion it sounds like the only thing wrong with it is that it lacked training.”

Noem, once a top contender in the fight to join Donald Trump’s ticket as his vice presidential running mate, reportedly writes in a forthcoming memoir that she shot Cricket, a female German wirehaired pointer, after she killed a neighbor’s chickens, bit Noem, and ruined a hunting trip by going “out of her mind with excitement, chasing all those birds and having the time of her life.”

But Griffith and other German wirehaired pointer breeders told The Daily Beast that such spirited behavior is to be expected out of the notoriously rambunctious breed, which can easily be brought to heel with time and attention.

“It sounds like this was simply a dog doing exactly what it was bred to do—these dogs are born to hunt, and have a high what you would call ‘prey drive,’ but they don’t just come right out of the chute ready to go,” said Jack Wilson, a Drahthaar breeder and owner of Sioux Falls’ vom Wiredhaus Kennels. “You have to train them, and it’s hard to do.”

Hard, but far from impossible. “You give me two months with [Noem’s] dog and if it really was acting the way she described, I could probably make that dog a champion hunter and a great house pet at the same time,” Griffith said.

The extracts in Noem’s exhaustively titled book, No Going Back: The Truth on What’s Wrong With Politics and How We Move America Forward, were published by The Guardian, which obtained a copy, on Friday. In response, Noem doubled down on her actions, saying in one of two statements over the weekend that “tough decisions like this happen all the time on a farm.”

But, despite decades of cumulative experience, none of the experts The Daily Beast spoke to could recall encountering any instance of a dog being shot for its poor behavior. Cole Jensen of Badlands Kennel said that a hard-charging puppy was “a common problem that any trainer worth his salt can help with,” while Jeff Miller of Dakota Pro Wirehairs called the situation avoidable and “heartbreaking.”

Wirehaired pointers “can certainly take advantage of inexperienced trainers,” Miller added, “and that is also why I do my best as a breeder to be sure those pups only go to experienced handlers that have taken on pups like this before.”

Noem said in her response that she had killed Cricket around two decades ago. It remained unclear on Monday who she got the dog from, and whether they would have accepted the dog back had the governor, then a few years away from entering politics, attempted to return her.

But most breeders The Daily Beast spoke to confirmed that whoever sold her the dog would likely have “happily” taken Cricket back—a now-common agreement among dog breeders, especially hunting dogs.

Elsewhere, Noem’s admission, which has quickly come to be viewed as an unforced error that can only damage any aspirations she might have for higher office, has been met with similar disgust and bewilderment.

“Good luck,” Katherine Jacobson, the president of Rapid City Kennel Club, told The Daily Beast. “I hope her political career is over.”

The National German Wirehaired Pointer Rescue said in a Facebook statement on Sunday night that the shooting displayed a “lack of [judgment], ignorance and cruelty.” The rescue, which says on its website that it provides unhoused pointers with proper obedience before placing them with loving owners, called on the governor “to take accountability for this horrific decision.”

It asked her to take the time and effort to educate the public on the options available to an owner struggling with “a difficult young canine,” including training, breeder intervention, and rescue placement. (There are more than 60 animal shelters and welfare organizations in Noem’s state, according to nonprofit tracker Cause IQ.)

“Dogs are a gift from God,” a “horrified” Alyssa Farah Griffin, the former Trump White House staffer turned co-host of The View, tweeted on Saturday. “They’re a reflection of his unconditional love. Anyone who would needlessly hurt an animal because they are inconvenient needs help.”

There are also lingering questions about the legality of her decision, with online users asking if Noem could be criminally prosecuted for Cricket’s coldblooded murder.

It is unclear what the statute of limitations on the circa-2004 death of a dog are under South Dakota law, which Noem cited in defending herself over the weekend. “The fact is, South Dakota law states that dogs who attack and kill livestock can be put down,” she claimed.

But, as The Guardian noted in a follow-up story on Monday, that law makes no mention of poultry. What’s more, according to the newspaper, another section of the South Dakota codified laws suggests it’s possible that Noem may have committed a class two misdemeanor in the matter. The governor’s communications chief did not immediately respond to The Guardian’s request for comment on the matter.

But a spokesperson for the Sioux Falls Area Humane Society told Yahoo News that a single gunshot wound to the head as a means of euthanasia is not considered illegal, nor even inhumane.

“However, we do not practice that at the Humane Society here and most animal shelters and rescues do not,” James Oppenheimer, the society’s executive director, added.

This post was originally published on Daily Beast

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