Fact Check

Firefighter Kills Dogs for Trespassing?

A firefighter allegedly shot and killed two dogs for roaming onto his property, then bragged about his deed on Facebook.

Published Feb 25, 2015

Claim:   A firefighter shot and killed two dogs for roaming onto his property, then bragged about his deed on Facebook.


Example:   [Collected via e-mail, February 2015]

This is going around Facebook, is it true?


Origins:   On 25 February 2015, a Facebook user from Texas published a status update regarding the purported deaths of two dogs in Royse City, Texas.

The user shared a screen capture attributed to a local firefighter named Tim Conatser in which the firefighter appeared to brag about shooting and killing two dogs that had wandered onto his property: "Somebody didn't put any truth my warning. Keep your damn dogs on your property."

Within hours of its posting, the disturbing image and status update had circulated widely, followed by a petition urging animal advocates on social media to contact Conatser's employer about the Facebook photo:

This man is a firefighter with the Union Valley Fire Department in Royse City, Texas.

The person that is supposed to save lives is doing exactly the opposite. He put down two dogs for apparently trespassing on his property, then proudly posted the photo on Facebook, boasting about what he had just done.

These dogs deserve justice! Such actions are unacceptable.

Sign the petition if you would like to see this man fired and prosecuted!

In addition, please take a moment an leave a message on the Union Valley Fire Department's Facebook page and let them know this fireman needs to be dismissed for good.

In a 25 February 2015 status update that has since been removed from their Facebook page, the Union Valley Fire Department indicated they were aware of the controversy and that Conatser had been "removed" from the department:

As previously stated, we do not condone the recent actions of one of our firefighters. We are following our policy in removing him from our department. This is now a civil/criminal matter that we have no jurisdiction over. Please forward all concerns to local law enforcement and/or the SPCA.

A local news account reported that Conatser had "resigned" from the department and was "responsible for the photo," although it stopped short of stating that he was the one who had shot the dogs:

A volunteer firefighter in Hunt County has resigned and could face criminal charges because of a picture on social media suggesting he shot two dogs.

The Union Valley Fire Department confirmed one of its volunteers was responsible for the photo.

The owners found out on social media what happened to Gordo, the black lab, and Spike, the yellow lab.

"I'm in shock! I don't know, I don't understand these people. Bad people, I don't know," said owner Pulido Rodrigo.

The owners said they never got any warning or complaints from anyone about their dogs being a problem.

The Hunt County Constables Office and the SPCA are now investigating to determine if animal cruelty charges should be filed.

The investigation is focusing on whether the man who shot the dogs had the right to do so. The law said there must be a reasonable threat to a person or livestock to shoot.

Another such news account stated that Conatser shot the dogs because they had been attacking his livestock and had previously warned their owners to keep the animals off his property. It also noted that he had voluntarily asked the fire department to temporarily remove him from duty due to the controversy, although the report likewise stated only that Conatser was responsible for posting the image on Facebook (not necessarily for killing the dogs):

According to a family friend, the incident happened at Tim Conatser's barn. That's where the dogs allegedly attacked Conatser's livestock and the property-owner shot and killed them.

Family friend Kevin Forester said Conatser found the dogs inside his barn a couple of days earlier, while they were attacking his calf, and recognized them as belonging to his neighbor.

"So he went over to his neighbor's and told him that his dogs was getting in his barn and attacking his animals, to please ya know keep 'em at home, put 'em on a leash, build a fence, do something," recalled Forester.

The friend says Conatser told him the neighbor didn't care.

There is a state statute that says a dog or coyote that attacks livestock, or domestic animals, may be killed by someone who witnesses it or the animals' owner, and [that person] can't be held liable for damages by the dog's owner.

Conatser is a volunteer firefighter with Union Valley. Union Valley Fire Chief Edward Ragsdale says Conatser realizes he made a mistake. "He says he apologized and he's guilty of posting this on Facebook. He's young and he recognizes what he did was wrong."

Conatser contacted Chief Ragsdale Wednesday and asked that he be removed from the department rotation for now, because of the threats.

On 27 February 2015 the Union Valley Fire Department updated their Facebook page with what they said would be their last word on the matter:

Tim is no longer on our fire department. He did not get suspended with pay, and he will not get severance. Why? Because, none of us get paid. This department is ALL volunteer.

Unless you take all responsibility for your co-workers' actions, please don't expect us to do the same.

In March 2015, Conatser turned himself in to the Hunt County Sheriffâ??s Office and was charged with two counts of cruelty to livestock animals, with his bond set at $10,000. Friends maintained Conatser had merely shot animals that were attacking his livestock, while law enforcement reported that had found no evidence of such an attack:

A family friend, Kevin Forester, is standing by his friend. "Heâ??s getting a bad rap," said Forester.

"The two dogs were in his barn, tearing up his calf in the barn so he went in the house and shot them, and shot them dead on his property," said Forester.

Hunt County Constable, Terry Jones investigated those claims, but said he found no evidence of any attack.

Originally published:   25 February 2015

Last updated:   25 January 2016

David Mikkelson founded the site now known as snopes.com back in 1994.

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