Police say Norton Shores man thought neighbor’s dog was a coyote, shot it while drinking and hunting in backyard

Posted at 10:17 PM, Oct 30, 2014
and last updated 2014-10-30 23:22:25-04

NORTON SHORES, Mich. -- A man is facing criminal charges after investigators say he shot an English setter while hunting in a blind in his backyard.

Though Mark Nelson says it was a mistake, officials say it was clear he had been drinking.

The dog, Bella, continues to recover and seems to be in good spirits after a vet had to remove her hind right leg. Police say Nelson, 61, claims he shot her because thought she was a coyote.

Bella's owner, Bill Kooi, says he was in his yard Oct. 20 firing up the tractor when he heard a gunshot, which is a common sound in rural Norton Shores.

“There's a fella that claims he was hunting, and shot and injured her leg,” Kooi says.

Moments later, he heard Bella yelping and saw her limping toward him.

The police report says it was clear Nelson had been drinking, that he had a strong order of alcohol coming from his breath, his speech was slurred, and he did not walk straight.

Meanwhile, Kooi rushed to Grand Rapids in an attempt to save Bella's life.

“The ones I want to thank are the emergency hospital in Grand Rapids for pets on Plainfield. They're the ones that really saved her life and stabilized her,” he said.

Kooi says Bella is just like his human children, and he sought several opinions, but it was clear her leg couldn't be saved.

He said the South Kent Veterinary Hospital in Caledonia stayed open late that night to remove the injured leg.

“It's hard on the family," Kooi said. "It's emotional, and she's frankly doing a lot better than I am."

Nelson told police he thought Bella was a coyote, that he's seen coyote on his property in all different colors. Police say Nelson had a bait pile 30 feet from his blind, and he was using a 12 gauge shotgun with a scope.

Nelson faces three misdemeanor charges, including careless use of a firearm, hunting too close to an occupied dwelling ,and excessive deer baiting.

Kooi tells us Bella has perseverance, that she's a rescue dog that won`t let anything get her down.

“She's doing really well, she's got another follow-up visit in about a week, and I don't anticipate anything after that she's doing really really well,” he said.

FOX 17 stopped by Mark Nelson's house, but no one would comment on the incident.

He's expected to turn himself in for arraignment on those misdemeanor charges next week.