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Dog Shoots Man is the sort of headline newspapers appear to enjoy running from time to time whenever the circumstances permit. This is certainly what happened to one James Harris of Tama, Iowa on the opening day of the pheasant season on Saturday, 27th October 2007. He was out hunting with a group of friends about three miles north of Grinnellin in Poweshiek County, when he went to retrieve a fallen pheasant. He put his gun on the ground whilst he was climbing over a fence and as he was doing so, his hunting dog stepped on the gun and shot him in the left calf at short range. Harris was later treated at the Grinnell Medical Center before being transferred by helicopter to University Hospitals in Iowa City. His injury was described as "not life-threatening, but will give him trouble for a long time". The dog, who was not identified, was uninjured in the incident.

A spokesman for the Iowa Department of Natural Resources named Alan Foster didn't seem all that surprised by events as it is apparently quite common for hunters to be shot by their dogs. As he put it; "I hear about it a couple times a year. They'll step on the trigger assembly and, if the gun for whatever reason wasn't on safety, it doesn't take a whole lot to trip a trigger."

There is at least some confirmation of the frequency with which American dogs are shooting their owners in the form of the story of Michael Murray. He was also out hunting on the first day of the season in western South Dakota back on the 19th October 2002, when he managed to get himself shot in the foot when his year-old English setter pup Sonny stepped on the trigger of his shotgun.

At this point one is tempted to make some comment about stupid Americans who don't know what the safety catch is for, but sadly stupidity or at least carelessness knows no national boundaries.

Much the same thing happened in New Zealand to a hunter named Kelly Russell who was out tracking wild pigs with his dogs near Tokoroa on North Island on Sunday, 10th December 2000. He too put down a loaded shotgun and was blasted in the foot when his six-year-old mongrel named Stinky accidentally trod on the trigger. In Mr Russell's case however, things were slightly more serious as he had to wait five hours until he was spotted by a passing car before the emergency services could be notified and it seemed uncertain as to whether the doctors would be able to save his foot.

Further research also reveals a news report from Fox News in Australia on the 16th September 2005, about a Bulgarian hunter who began beating his Deutsch-Drahthaar hunting dog with a rifle when the dog in question refused to release a killed bird. During the struggle the dog's paw caught the trigger and the hunter was blasted with buckshot. The report includes no information about the fate of the hunter, but does tell us that the dog's paw was injured.

There are also further brief reports of similar incidents, such as that from The Scotsman in 2003 of another hunter from Espelette in the south-west of France, whose dog also stepped on the trigger and shot him in the hip, or the unfortunate and similarly anonymous hunter who was found dead beside his car near the town of Bad Urach in Germany on the 16th August 1999. Apparently in this case the local police concluded that he had placed a loaded gun on the car seat which was then triggered when the dog jumped on top of it. The deceased German had the honour of being nominated for the 1999 Darwin Award but failed to win.


  • Hunting dog shoots man, Associated Press October 30, 2007
  • Matthew Weaver, Dog shoots man, honest! Guardian Unlimited October 30, 2007
  • Dog shoots Iowa man during hunt, BBC News, 30 October 2007
  • Hunter shot in the foot by his dog, Associated Press, 10/25/02
  • Dog shoots man, BBC News, 11 December, 2000
  • Dog shoots man, Fox News Australia September 16, 2005
  • Dog shoots man The Scotsman 6 Nov 2003
  • Dog shoots man, Reuters, August 18 1999
  • Smarter Animals, 1999 Darwin Award Nominee

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