A New Jersey family is mourning the death of their beloved dog after a hunter shot the animal when he allegedly mistook him for a coyote.
Elizabeth Middlemark Mongno said her 1-year-old Alaskan shepherd was on their Readington Township property Wednesday evening when he ran off to chase a deer into a wooded 3-4-acre piece of land nearby.
“He saw a deer in the distance towards the edge of our property and he took off after it. I started calling him right away. I started walking into the woods,” Middlemark Mongno told InsideEdition.com. “Thirty seconds into him running, I hear a pop noise and I heard my dog yelp.”
Middlemark Mongno said she knew something was wrong and began panicking.
It wasn’t until her husband came home that they found the dog, Tonka, lying 50-feet from their properly line. He’d been shot in the heart.
Someone heard Middlemark Mongno’s screams and called police.
Middlemark Mongno said the canine had tried to walk home, but did not make it.
Police said Tonka was killed by a crossbow hunter who mistook the 95-pound Alaskan shepherd with white and gray fur for a coyote chasing a deer, The Washington Post reported.
The hunter, Romeo Antonucci, was licensed to hunt and was within the proper distance from houses when he fired, police said. Antonucci has been charged with careless discharge of a weapon and damage to property, however.
“Tonka doesn’t look like a coyote,” Middlemark Mongno said.
The mom-of-two said the loss of Tonka has been especially hard on her 9-year-old son.
The family has had Tonka since he was just weeks old.
“My son couldn’t go to school. He is a mess. It was his dog,” Middlemark Mongno said. “Everyone in town knew my dog. He was a family member. He was a piece of all of us.”