An elderly man in Maple Shade, New Jersey, who was accused of shooting a neighbor’s therapy dog, pleaded guilty to the crime Wednesday (April 29).

According to local reports, on Sept. 18 last year, the owners of the dog contacted the police saying that a neighbor had found their pet canine, a 9-year-old poodle named Toby, howling in pain. Vet revealed that the canine was shot in the head. The canine was put down due to the extent of the injuries.

Investigation revealed that 64-year-old William Stroemel, also known as “Wild Willie,” who lived just around the corner, had shot the canine with an air rifle. He then passed off the weapon to an acquaintance after the shooting. It was also revealed that the canine was not shot inside Stroemel’s property.

Speaking to local media last September, Amber Cook said the dog lived with her and her grandparents. It acted as a therapy dog for her grandfather, a Vietnam War veteran. She said her grandparents barely knew the accused, however, one day, her grandfather did encounter him while taking the canine for a walk.

“It’s a small town, my pop pop would take him on his walks every day, ” she said, adding, “He said the guy made a couple comments a couple of times like, ‘Oh, he’s going to get hit one day’ or ‘something’s going to happen to him one day’ but they didn’t really talk.”

“He’s destroyed our family. Hearing the fact that he tried to hide the weapon, he feels no remorse,” she added.

On Wednesday, he pleaded guilty to possession of a weapon for an unlawful purpose and animal cruelty.

Burlington County Prosecutor Scott Coffina said, “There are few criminal acts as callous as shooting an innocent dog that is the beloved pet of one of your neighbors. But Toby was not just a family pet, he was also a therapy dog and helped relieve the post-traumatic stress disorder experienced by a Vietnam War veteran. Such flagrant disregard for life and the impact of one’s actions demands serious punishment, and we believe this plea agreement reflects that.”

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