Authorities are investigating the apparent intentional shooting death of a donkey on a farm in Barrow County near Athens.
Bonnie the donkey was shot Saturday afternoon with a high-powered rifle from a distance, said Todd Garrett, whose family owns the farm in the southwestern part of the county.
“The deputies that came out to investigate said it was a deliberate execution because of the placement of the shot – in the shoulder under the neck, the same way you would shoot a deer,” Garrett said.
Sheriff Jud Smith agreed that it appeared to have been a deliberate killing.
An investigator has been assigned to the case and if the shooter is identified, a felony aggravated animal cruelty charge could be lodged.
“This was done by someone who knew what they were doing from a great distance,” Smith said. “It’s not just cruel, it’s mean.”
There’s always the possibility that someone mistook the donkey for a deer, the sheriff said, but then they would run afoul of the Department of Natural Resources because it would be poaching and outside of deer hunting season.
Family members had been out Saturday afternoon taking a head count of their cattle herd when they heard a distant gunshot just as they were returning home.
“We didn’t think anything of it at the time because we’re in the country and people go out shooting,” said Todd Garrett’s sister, Tonya Garrett.
Garrett family members said that it appeared as though the shot originated from a nearby subdivision with fewer than 20 homes.
Tonya Garrett said her son and nephew found the donkey dead when they went four-wheeling on Sunday.
The boys didn’t know that the donkey had been shot, but when Tonya’s father and husband turned the animal over they saw the bullet wound.
“It’s been pretty upsetting to my children because the donkeys are very much like pets,” she said.
The Garrett family had Bonnie for about eight years with two others donkeys – Clyde and Rufus. Their main job is to protect a herd of some 50 cows, according to Raymond Garrett, Todd and Tonya’s father.
“They keep coyotes and wild dogs out of the pasture, away from the newborn calves,” he said.
The Garrett family is offering a reward of $1,000 for information that leads to the identification and possible arrest of the person responsible for killing Bonnie.
“You’re not going to pay that much for a donkey, but Bonnie was a pet,” Tonya Garrett said. “Whoever did it definitely needs to be held accountable.”