ATHENS, Ga. - Athens-Clarke County police said they think a hunter intentionally shot and killed a dog as it walked with its owner along a wooded trail in southeastern Clarke County.
Investigators found several hunting tree stands near where Beaver Trail resident Beth Davis' dog was shot Wednesday, and they think the bullet had a downward trajectory.
Although investigators haven't found the bullet - or its spent cartridge - that instantly killed the 2-year-old Labradoodle named Ivey, police said the golfball-size hole it made in the dog's head indicates it probably came from a high-powered hunting rifle.
At first, police didn't know whether the shooter specifically targeted the dog or shot it by mistake.
They thought differently Friday after reviewing the evidence.
"I feel this was done on purpose because you just can't mistake a small dog like that for a deer," said Capt. Clarence Holeman of the Athens-Clarke police Criminal Investigations Division.
The only lead investigators had as of Friday was that the shooter might have driven an old, beat-up pickup that Ms. Davis and her sister saw speeding from the scene, near the county's Cedar Creek Wastewater Treatment Plant.
The truck was parked within the plant's gated property, police said, but there are no video surveillance cameras posted there.
To try to stir up more leads, the local Crime Stoppers is offering a reward of up to $1,000 for information about the shooting.
That is in addition to the $1,000 reward already put up by Ms. Davis.
For Ms. Davis, who is married but has no children, losing her dog is just as devastating as losing a human family member.
"That little dog was the best companion, a one-in-a-lifetime dog," Ms. Davis said. "Other than the loss of my father, I can't think of anything that comes close to feeling this much pain."
The shooter not only committed the crime of animal cruelty, but perhaps felony reckless endangerment or aggravated assault by endangering the lives of Ms. Davis and her sister, police said.
The dogs were about 10 yards ahead of the women as they walked in the woods near their homes in the Red Fox Run and Belle Meade Plantation neighborhoods off Barnett Shoals Road.
Ms. Davis and her sister, Lauren Venditto, said they heard at least two shots and think the first struck the Labradoodle and the second was meant for Ms. Venditto's golden retriever, Sandy. The other dog wasn't injured, perhaps because it ran when it heard the first shot, the women said.