Niles family searching for answers, pet dogs found shot to death

NILES, Mich. -- It started as a search for lost dogs, now it’s a search for a shooter.

A Niles family is left looking for answers after finding their two pet dogs shot to death, and the discovery is something they still can’t fathom.

“That was honestly the last thing we expected,” says the dogs’ owner, Stacey Pirri-Huckins.

Stacey and her family searched high and low for roughly two weeks, looking for their two Bernese Mountain Dogs, Bianca and Ophelia, who escaped from the backyard.

“I honestly thought, they were both unspayed females, I thought someone had picked them up, and we’d be looking for their puppies in two months,” Pirri-Huckins admits.

The family scoured the internet to see if someone was trying to sell the dogs, searched every shelter in Michiana, and knocked on doors looking for clues, getting the word out.

Ultimately, the story spreading on Facebook led the family to a tip that both dogs had been found on the side of the road minutes from their home.

“We thought it was really weird when we first heard about the dogs, because they were found on the side of the road right next to each other, no space,” describes Pirri-Huckins. “It looked like one animal from a distance.”

To their shock and heartbreak, they discovered Bianca and Ophelia, the mother and daughter duo, had been shot dead with a handgun.

“The officer was pulling the dogs out of the bag and had started taking pictures, and my husband goes ‘Is that a bullet wound?’ and the officer goes ‘Yes,’” Pirri-Huckins recalls. That officer then confirmed the wounds were from a handgun.

She describes the pair, three-years-old and eight-months-old, as affectionate, curious, and always offering a hug.

She is thankful to be left with the legacy of Bianca's first litter of puppies, and her Bernese stuffed animal that Bianca treated as her own.

“She would carry that little stuffed animal like it was her baby,” shares Pirri-Huckins. “She was just a great mama.”

However, Stacey's also left with unanswered questions.

The family hopes the person responsible for shooting their dogs will face punishment, so they don’t cause this pain again.

Stacey also wants to share a message of gratitude to the Niles community for helping in the search, as well as anyone that would take the time to care for a lost animal.

“To see so many people care, and one senseless act of non-caring does not trump all of those people who have cared, and who have helped,” Pirri-Huckins says.

The Berrien County Animal Control Lead Supervisor confirmed with ABC57 that there is an open investigation.

In the meantime, the family has set up a GoFundMe to collect reward money for anyone with information as to what led to their dogs’ deaths.

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