READINGTON — A deer hunter who mistakenly shot a pet dog faces fines and loss of his hunting license.

Romeo Antonucci, 40, of Kenilworth, was charged with careless discharge of a weapon and damage to property after shooting an arrow at a dog named Tonka, which he says he thought was a coyote.

Antonucci says the dog was chasing a deer Wednesday evening, according to NJ Department of Environmental Protection spokesman Larry Hajna.

Police and the DEP said the shooting was accidental. Antonucci and the dog's owner, Elizabeth Mongno, reported the incident to police.

(Elizabeth Mongno)

Mongno told New Jersey 101.5 that Tonka spotted deer behind a shed on the edge of her 5-acre property about 7:20 p.m. Mongno said she ran after the 1-1/2-year-old Alaskan shepherd and heard a little pop.

"It didn't sound like a gunshot but I didn't know what it was and then I heard him yip. He cried. I knew something was wrong and I was running all over the place trying to find him.Then I went back into the woods but the hunter had left. My dog had tried to come home but he died in the woods 200-300 feet within my front door step."

Mongno said she didn't know where Tonka was and kept calling his name for another 10 minutes before she found his body.

"I had a horrible, horrible scream and the entire neighborhood knew what was going on," Mongno said.

Deer hunting season for bows in New Jersey began on Sept. 9. Antonucci is a licensed hunter and had permission to hunt on the property neighboring Mongno's.

Mongno contended that Antonucci should have heard her calling out for Tonka.

"He had a scope so he should have recognized that it was a dog he shot," she said.

She speculated that Antonucci was at the end of his day hunting and was frustrated when Tonka chased away the deer.

"Either he was just so in-the-moment he didn't look to see what he he was shooting. My dog does not look like a deer. He said it was a coyote. My dog does not look like a coyote. He's a lot bigger than a coyote," Mongno said.

Mongno said she is not anti-hunting and her husband is a hunter. She is concerned about the lack of regulation over buying a crossbow compared to getting a firearm in New Jersey.

"Guns have a great vetting system. You have a whole process with the police to get a gun. You can go to Walmart and buy a crossbow."

She is also worried at how close Antonucci was to children playing outside and said there are 12 young children who live in the neighborhood on the edge of the shared wooded area where Tonka was killed.

"The property he has permission to hunt on is the furthest one away. But the people who live right next to me between the two properties have three small children that are 8 and under. They had no idea this was going on and they are constantly playing in those woods."

A bow hunter must be a minimum of 150 feet from an occupied building. Police said Antonucci was the proper distance from any dwellings.

Antonucci is scheduled to appear in Readington Municipal Court on Nov. 2. He faces a 7-year loss of his hunters license and $3,000 in fines and restitution.

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