Hunting Accident File > Safe Hunting?: > 2006

Police Dog Shot and Killed by a Hunter

In The Philadelphia Inquirer, Wednesday, December 6, 2006 in the section entitled "Local News" (Pennsylvania Suburbs Edition).

Many mourn dog killed by hunter; memorial Monday

By Kathleen Brady Shea

Public response to the shooting of Nelo, a drug-sniffing German shepherd who was accidentally killed by a hunter last week, has poured in to the Brandywine Regional Police Department. A memorial for the police dog will be held Monday.

When Nelo, the drug-sniffing German shepherd, was accidentally killed by a hunter last week, public response flooded the Police Department that owned the dog.

Brandywine Regional Police Chief Mark D. Kocsi said 90 percent of the calls and e-mails - too numerous to count - have expressed condolences. Others have run the gamut from generous offers to replace the $7,200 dog to outrage over his death at the hands of a man who apparently mistook Nelo for a coyote.

On Monday, the Police Department will have a memorial service for Nelo - at a Baptist church. And there is even a place where folks can donate to a memorial fund.

"I never anticipated the magnitude of the response," Kocsi said yesterday. "This is amazing; it has taken on a life of its own."

Kocsi said the East Brandywine Baptist Church in Downingtown was selected for the service because of its positive history with the 17-member department.

"I really don't know what to expect," Kocsi said. "The church can only hold three to four hundred people."

Kocsi said the dog's handler, Officer Denise Knoke, helped plan the short service, which will include tributes, a bagpiper and a K-9 procession.

The department - totally unfamiliar with the intricacies of a dog memorial - received invaluable help from the Internet, Kocsi said.

"It's unbelievable what you can find when you type 'canine poems' on Google," he said.

Coping with the emotional toll on the department has been a much tougher challenge, Kocsi said, especially for Knoke.

"She's taken this pretty hard," Kocsi said.

He explained that Knoke, a former veterinary assistant and avowed animal lover, had been in training with Nelo for several months before Nelo joined the department last month. Nelo also lived with the officer.

Kocsi said Nelo, who was on a leash, bolted from Knoke during a walk on Nov. 26 after being startled by a firecracker. The dog was found dead last Wednesday.

District Attorney Joseph W. Carroll said the investigation into Nelo's death had not been completed. He said a hunter, whom he did not identify, admitted shooting Nelo on the West Caln Township property where the 16-month-old German shepherd was found.

Despite being on the street for only three weeks, Nelo made friends quickly, Kocsi said.

"He had a lot of energy and was very approachable," Kocsi said. "He was an absolutely gorgeous dog."

Kocsi said it was too early "after this tragedy" to determine whether the department would consider replacing Nelo, who was insured only for liability.

The department set up a memorial fund because "people insisted on sending money regardless of what we told them," Kocsi said.

He said that if the department decided not to add a K-9 officer, the money would be donated to an animal shelter.

In the meantime, Knoke has received permission to keep Nelo's ashes.

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