Dog shooting goes to trial |

Dog shooting goes to trial

Sarah S. Chung

The Carbondale man charged with the much-publicized fatal shooting of his neighbor’s dog last summer will stand trial in Pitkin County Court this week.

The two-day trial for Ted Coffman will begin Thursday. He faces charges of cruelty to animals and the prohibited use of a weapon.

Last August, Coffman allegedly fired two shots and killed Xena, his neighbor’s 14-month-old Rottweiler, when the dog wandered into Coffman’s front yard at 6336 Highway 133 in Carbondale.

After the shooting, Cynthia Tanis, Xena’s owner, was charged with a dog running at large and keeping a vicious dog. Last September, she pleaded guilty to the charge of a dog running at large and paid $43 in penalties and court costs. The vicious dog charge was dismissed.

Assistant District Attorney Lawson Wills declined to comment on the specifics of the case this week, but he noted that Tanis’ guilty plea is a factor that will be brought up in the proceedings.

The trial won’t be a clear cut, “he said, she said” sort of case, Wills predicted. “If it only takes a day, I’d be surprised. There will be a lot of witnesses on both sides,” he said.

After the shooting, the Pitkin County deputy investigating the case explained the rationale behind the two charges against Coffman.

On the charge of cruelty to animals, then-Deputy Carrington Brown told The Aspen Times, “Since he had an alternative, it was a needless killing. Had he had no alternatives, then it would have been warranted.”

The charge of prohibited use of a weapon stems from the second shot Coffman allegedly fired. A friend of the Tanises had rushed to the scene after the first shot was fired and was in the area when the second shot was fired.

According to the report filed by Brown and ReRe Baker, the county’s animal control officer, Coffman was on his porch when the first shot was fired.

“The dog, which was broadside to him about 15 to 20 feet away, tensed its legs and turned its head towards him,” the report states. “Coffman, who was standing in his doorway, felt threatened by this action and `killed the dog’ by firing a shot . The dog then ran away from him towards the Tanis property; Coffman fired another shot at the dog as it neared the fence dividing his property from the Tanis property.”

The report also indicated that Xena had repeatedly come onto the Coffman property and that Coffman had complained to both the sheriff’s office and the Tanises about the dog.

In response to the complaints, the Tanises were in the process of installing an invisible fence to keep Xena on their property.

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