Was it legal for Kristi Noem to shoot her puppy — and what other options did she have?

South Dakota Gov. Kristi Noem and a wirehaired pointer. (Photo illustration: Yahoo News; photos: Alex Brandon/AP, Getty Images)
South Dakota Gov. Kristi Noem and a wirehaired pointer. (Photo illustration: Yahoo News; photos: Alex Brandon/AP, Getty Images)
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South Dakota Gov. Kristi Noem’s recent revelation that she shot and killed her 14-month-old puppy, Cricket, has drawn criticism from humane societies and dog lovers across the country.

In a memoir to be released in May, the Republican — who is on the shortlist to be former President Donald Trump’s running mate in the 2024 election — described shooting and killing her “untrainable” hunting dog on her farm.

Animal humane societies acknowledge that while there are scenarios where certain environments like farms have to make a hard decision to euthanize an animal, there are many other alternatives that could have been exhausted before resorting to that extreme measure.

According to the Guardian, which obtained a copy of Noem’s forthcoming book No Going Back: The Truth on What’s Wrong With Politics and How We Move America Forward, Noem recounted a 20-year-old story about fatally shooting Cricket, a wirehaired pointer, who was supposed to be a hunting dog on her family ranch.

Noem admitted that she “hated” the dog, recounting how Cricket attempted to bite her and was “dangerous to anyone she came in contact with” and “less than worthless … as a hunting dog.”

She also described how the puppy ruined a pheasant hunt and killed her neighbor’s chickens.

The governor recalled how she decided to put Cricket in a gravel pit and kill her after the dog had killed a fellow farmer’s chickens.

Noem’s penned memory of killing the puppy drew backlash from animal advocacy groups like PETA, which questioned the politician’s judgment.

“Most Americans love their dogs,” Colleen O’Brien, senior vice president of media relations at PETA, said in a statement to Yahoo News. “We suspect that they’ll consider Gov. Noem a psychotic loony for letting this rambunctious puppy loose on chickens and then punishing her by deciding to personally blow her brains out rather than attempting to train her or find a more responsible guardian who could provide her with a proper home. Noem obviously fails to understand the vital political concepts of education, cooperation, compromise, and compassion.”

However, Noem doubled down on what she called “tough decisions” that happen “all the time on a farm” in several posts on X.

“Whether running the ranch or in politics, I have never passed on my responsibilities to anyone else to handle,” Noem said on X, Sunday. “Even if it’s hard and painful. I followed the law and was being a responsible parent, dog owner, and neighbor.”

In her own defense, Noem mentioned several times in Sunday’s X post that the killing was covered under state law.

“The fact is, South Dakota law states that dogs who attack and kill livestock can be put down,” Noem posted.

South Dakota’s law does state that it is legal to kill a dog when they are disturbing domestic animals, which Noem claimed Cricket did on multiple occasions.

The Sioux Falls Area Humane Society says that while carrying out this law is not common in South Dakota, it does happen, especially in rural environments like South Dakota, if a dog does not serve its intended purpose, like hunting.

“We do see this occasionally, humane euthanasia,” James Oppenheimer, executive director of the Sioux Falls Area Humane Society, told Yahoo News.

“One of the methods for it is a single gunshot wound to the head. So it is not considered illegal or inhumane, what [Noem] chose to do. … However, we do not practice that at the Humane Society here and most animal shelters and rescues do not,” said Oppenheimer.

Animal humane societies say that while some dogs are not good at hunting, 14 months is too young to determine that a dog can't hunt. They also say that there are better ways than euthanasia to deal with a dog that exhibits aggressive behavior. The best option would be to call a local animal shelter.

“We will try and find an alternative home for the animal and we'll put that animal up for adoption,” Oppenheimer explained. “There are a number of shelters that would have taken Cricket in.”

Oppenheimer said that most shelters evaluate the dog. If they're deemed a dangerous animal, they wouldn’t put it up for adoption.

Extensive training is another option available to dog owners.

“We have an animal behavior specialist at the Sioux Falls Area Humane Society,” he said. “There are different trainers throughout the state that could have helped Cricket out either by doing some more extensive training. If this is a dog that's gun shy or not a good hunter, we can try training him to be a better domestic animal, so that it's an animal that could be again adopted out or find a different family.”

However, Oppenheimer acknowledged, some dogs are not trainable and can really struggle in a domestic environment.

“The fact that she had a dog that was purchased or was used for hunting and was not a good hunter means that the environment didn't suit that dog.” Oppenheimer said.

A shelter worker at Glacial Lakes Humane Society, based in Watertown, S.D., offers other solutions besides euthanization when dealing with an aggressive dog.

“There's always animal control, the sheriff's department, the police department that can be called to help in any situation that a person is too scared to handle the animal,” the worker, who chose to speak anonymously, told Yahoo News. “Both the sheriff and the police department have trained staff and tools to deal with aggressive dogs.”

The worker said they would never recommend shooting a dog and that putting down a dog should always be done humanely at a veterinary clinic.

Cricket was a German wirehaired pointer. According to the American Kennel Club, these high-energy dogs are known to be very trainable and are “more likely to react to any potential threat.” In general, they are very affectionate dogs that can be used for hunting.

However, Oppenheimer pointed out that just because some breeds are deemed a “hunting dog,” they could very well not be the best hunter and would be better suited in a home.

“They are a predatory dog,” Oppenheimer said. “But we have found it can be nurture as much as nature and every animal has its own personality. We obviously don't know what this dog's personality was … but someone who maybe isn't planning on using it for hunting would adopt that sort of dog.”