Judge: Man who shot neighbor’s corgi cannot block Whatcom Humane Society’s Facebook posts

Molly, a corgi, was shot and killed in her owner’s backyard in the 1200 block of Undine Street by David William Latham on Saturday, Sept. 13, 2014 in Bellingham, Wash.
Molly, a corgi, was shot and killed in her owner’s backyard in the 1200 block of Undine Street by David William Latham on Saturday, Sept. 13, 2014 in Bellingham, Wash. Courtesy to The Bellingham Herald

A Bellingham man who has been charged with felony animal cruelty for shooting his neighbors’ corgi in their backyard may not block the humane society from posting about his case online.

On Saturday, Sept. 13, a dog had been barking and whining for hours in the Puget neighborhood before David William Latham, 55, grabbed a small-caliber rifle and walked across the street to a knee-high fence in his neighbor’s backyard. Without saying a word, he fired once into the chest of 13-month-old Molly right in front of her owners, according to charging papers.

The dog died a half hour later. She wasn’t the dog that had been barking.

The Whatcom Humane Society posted a link to a Bellingham Herald article about the incident on its Facebook page on Sept. 15 with the following message: “The Whatcom Humane Society is extremely troubled and sickened by the act of violence and cruelty involved in this case. We will continue to offer our assistance to the Bellingham Police Department and Prosecutor’s Office and expect Mr. Latham to be prosecuted to the fullest extent of the law. There is simply NO EXCUSE for this type of behavior. We send our sincere condolences to the grieving dog owners on the loss of their beloved family companion.”

In Superior Court Thursday, Sept. 25, Latham’s attorney, Adrian Madrone, argued that it was concerning to see an official enforcement agency take such a position on a case.

“I don’t think this would be a question if this were a medical examiner’s office post,” Madrone said.

It would be totally inappropriate, Madrone continued, for a medical examiner to perform an autopsy and then comment on what should happen to the suspect in a case involving that body.

Judge Deborra Garrett denied Latham’s request for a restraining order against the humane society, citing concern over the court’s authority to limit the organization’s right to free speech.

Humane society Director Laura Clark, who was not present in court Thursday, declined to comment on the proceedings before seeing a copy of the ruling.

“Our organization has received countless calls and emails from people all over the country expressing sorrow and outrage regarding this case and wanting to offer messages of sympathy and support in memory of Molly, the corgi,” Clark wrote in an email.

Last week, Judge Garrett ordered Latham to surrender a beagle in his home, a dog he said had been a Christmas gift to his fiancee. The grown dog, named Sadie, has since been turned over to the humane society, where she was adopted from in 2013. He’s allowed to keep two cats he’s owned for about eight years.

Madrone said Latham and his fiancee had since arranged for a family friend to take Sadie from the humane society and care for her, but humane society workers told them they were required by the court to keep the dog in custody. Deputy Prosecutor Shannon Conner said she did not direct the humane society to do so.

Rather than grant a motion to change the dog’s custody, Judge Garrett simply advised Connor to urge the humane society to take care of the dog.

“Sadie is currently being held at our facility and is receiving plenty of care and lots of love from our dedicated staff and volunteers,” Clark said. “At this time, Sadie is not available for adoption and will remain at WHS for the time being.”