By DANIEL BLACKBURN
A Creston ranch owner who shot and killed a neighbor’s prize Rhodesian Ridgeback from atop a sniper’s tower has been charged with one misdemeanor count of cruelty to an animal, according to a district attorney’s criminal complaint filed late Friday afternoon.
Stephen William Almond, 65, admitted to sheriff’s deputies that he shot the two-year-old dog through the heart on Aug. 17, adding that he thought it was chasing a deer. Snoop Dogg was hit from a distance of more than 200 yards, the dog’s owner, David Murray, said. Almond used a high-powered, telescope-equipped rifle, Murray added.
During his investigation, District Attorney Dow told Murray in an email, “I can assure you that no one is getting preferential treatment… this (thankfully) does not happen with frequency and we must be thorough.”
Dow’s investigators visited the Murray ranch recently and toured the site of the incident.
Deputy District Attorney Danielle Wheeler noted in the complaint that Almond “did unlawfully, maliciously, and intentionally kill” Snoop Dogg. Almond has been ordered to appear Jan. 8 for arraignment.
Murray said the filing is “good news” and that he and his family “are relieved.” He added, “We will press for a strong penalty.”
A petition bearing the signatures of more than 1,000 residents was presented to Dow in the midst of the investigation seeking the filing of felony charges.
Animal abuse in California can be charged as either a misdemeanor or a felony. Conviction as a misdemeanor can result in a county jail sentence of up to one year in county jail and a maximum $20,000 fine. An additional and consecutive one-year sentence in a state prison is possible if the animal cruelty offense involved the use of a deadly or dangerous weapon.
Almond reportedly also owns ranch land in Texas.