3 charged in shooting death of Brutus, a pit bull mix found dead in North Huntingdon
Three people were arrested Monday in connection with the fatal shooting of a dog that was found over the summer muzzled and tied to a North Huntingdon railroad post.
Ashley Nichole Kunkle, 30, her mother Sandra D. Cancino, 55, both of Yukon, and her boyfriend Anthony Keith Harper, 28, of Irwin, are charged with aggravated cruelty to animals, conspiracy, animal neglect and related offenses.
Brutus, the 1-year-old pit bull mix, was found in mid-August along railroad tracks off Turner Valley Road by someone fishing, according to court papers. Humane agents said the dog was tied by a leash to the post.
Agents from All But Furgotten sought help from the public to identify who might be responsible.
A necropsy showed Brutus was shot at least once, police said.
Humane agent Dina Perri was happy to see arrests made in the case.
“We are very thrilled … to know that we do have someone that put that poor animal in that position and did that to that animal that had no voice and no say-so, that somebody will answer to this crime,” Perri said.
Investigators said the animal’s owner left it with Cancino during a four-day trip out of town. Brutus apparently bit one of Kunkle’s children, and Cancino planned to have it euthanized, according to court papers.
After the bite incident, Kunkle said she didn’t want the dog at her mother’s house, and Harper threatened to shoot it, Cancino told investigators.
Harper’s cellphone was pinged on a cell tower Aug. 8 about two miles from where the dog’s body was found, according to court papers.
CSX Special Agent Royce Capehart requested a high bond for Harper “because of the seriousness of the charges.” Harper was being held at the Westmoreland County Prison on $50,000 bail.
Kunkle was freed on $50,000 unsecured bail.
“You’ll see that her involvement may have initiated this,” Capehart told District Judge Wayne Gongaware.
Neither Harper nor Kunkle said anything outside of court. Cancino, who was freed on her own recognizance, denied involvement. Capehart said Cancino provided information during the investigation.
“… I didn’t do any of that stuff,” she told Gongaware.
There are resources for pet owners who find themselves in a similar situation, Perri said.
“Our kennel is a mile, if that, from that spot,” she said. “There are kennels everywhere that they could’ve called. This was evil; there are just other options to rehome a dog or to get help for a dog. You did not have to put down an animal in a torturous way.”
Renatta Signorini is a Tribune-Review staff writer. You can contact Renatta at 724-837-5374, [email protected] or via Twitter .