Owning a pet is a great way to find companionship. It also teaches responsibility: this creature is totally at your mercy, and you must feed it and keep it in good health. Many pets end up being a member of the family, an animal that is treasured and mourned when it passes away. We think of our pets as our best friends, our constant companions – someone to love and to trust.
Unfortunately, what we often forget is that pets are also just animals. They have basic instincts like anything else, and they also don’t necessarily understand our world. Something that seems logical to us doesn’t make any sense at all to a dog or a cat. An animal that howls or cries when you leave does so because it is functioning at the level of a baby: it is experiencing separation anxiety and may believe that you are gone forever.
With that in mind, you wouldn’t trust a baby around certain objects. You wouldn’t give them a knife, for example, or set them down next to a pot of boiling water. You definitely wouldn’t leave a loaded and cocked gun beside them. But with pets, we tend to put the blinkers on and ignore the idea that they could ever do anything dangerous by accident. For the 15 people on this list, that was a big mistake. 7 of them may have lived to see the error of their ways – but 8 of them never got that chance, killed by their own pets by accident.
15 Death - The Loved-Up Llama
A woman in Delaware, Ohio, was killed by her pet llama, who just wanted to say hello. The llama was called Baby Doll, and apparently really loved her owner. She rushed over to greet her one day when she slipped on the wet pavement and barreled right into her, knocking her over. Florence Lenahan stood no chance against the heavy llama, and she fell immediately to hit her head on the pavement. The heavy blow was hard enough to really shake her up, and although she managed to call an ambulance, she had a heart attack on the way to the hospital.
Experts say that the llama was not acting maliciously – she really did just slip. She probably doesn’t understand what happened, or why she has now been re-homed. Lenahan is a very rare case, as llamas have only ever been involved in one recorded human death prior to this accident in 2012. They can be aggressive when in heat, but tend to simply bite, spit, or chase.
14 Near-Death - The Backseat Shooter
As we alluded in the intro, having a loaded gun around a pet is probably not the best idea. Richard Fipps of Wyoming was not wise to this fact, however, and he put his .300 Winchester Magnum on the backseat of his car. He left it loaded, and even took the safety off. Fipps’ truck got stuck in a remote area, so he and two buddies tried to move it.
Fipps stood beside the vehicle assessing the situation and told his dog to jump into the back of the vehicle from the front seat. The dog happened to step right onto the rifle, managing to accidentally discharge it. The bullet hit Fipps in the left arm, travelled behind him as he reacted, and clipped his right sleeve as well. There was initially some concern that he would lose his lower left arm, but this seems to have been avoided. If he had been standing just a little further over, it could have been a fatal shooting.
13 Death - The Amorous Camel
In 2007, a woman named Pam Weaver was killed by her pet camel – after he apparently mistook her for a female camel. He had previously tried to hump a pet goat, which obviously didn’t work out so well for him. He was still feeling randy when Weaver came a little too close to him. He apparently pushed her to the floor and then crushed her with his 330 pound weight, or so it is believed – no one witnessed the incident itself.
The camel had been a present for the woman’s 60th birthday, so it’s likely that she would have been completely vulnerable and unable to push him off. Let this be a lesson to all camel owners: start hitting the weights at the gym, just in case you need to be able to bench press 330 pounds. A camel expert named Chris Hill confirmed at the time that it was likely to be mating behaviour.
12 Near-Death - The Kickback
The law in Florida states that you should have a gun stowed away in a glove compartment or in a holster at all times. Apparently, that law didn’t apply to 35-year-old Gregory Dale Lanier. He had a gun in his pick-up truck which was, he thought, unloaded, so he just tossed it down onto the floor. This was in February 2013, and of course there were consequences.
His dog kicked the pistol by accident, which caused it to fire a round right into his leg. Not only was Lanier unaware that the gun was loaded, but he was also surprised to find that he had purchased a 9mm semi-automatic, thinking it was a different type of gun. So to recap, he didn’t know what type of gun he had, or whether it was loaded, and his dog shot him with it. There might be a thin line between “accident” and “karma”, but it’s some sort of miracle he didn’t crash the truck.
11 Death - A Serious Duck Hunt
Another duck hunter met a rather unfortunate end while picking up decoys at the end of the day in Nashville. He was hunting in the Cumberland River with a companion who stayed in the boat, along with the shotgun which had been placed on the floor of the vessel. “The dog apparently jumped back there and hit the trigger of the gun,” said Cape Taylor, a Tennessee Wildlife Resources law enforcement supervisor.
The shotgun blast went through the side of the boat, into the water, and into the 28-year-old’s lower abdomen. He was taken to the Vanderbilt University Medical Center but died there. Investigations found that the man who was shot did have the correct training and certification to hunt in the area, though his companion did not. Perhaps with training, he would have thought to pick up the gun, or at least put the safety on before anything happened.
10 Near-Death - Illegal Stupidity?
In 2013, a man in Minnesota was on a duck hunting trip when he left his gun in an unfortunate position. He was sitting in a boat with his loaded shotgun while his dog swam around, generally having a great time being a dog. The hunter was then startled when his dog jumped back into the boat and landed on the shotgun. As if by magic, it landed right on the trigger, causing the gun to shoot him in the leg. He was rushed to Cass Lake Indian Health Services and treated for the wound, being released with no threat to his life.
The sheriff’s office did investigate but did not file any charges, so it seems like this was a genuine accident rather than an act of illegal stupidity. This could quite easily have been a very different incident if the gun was in a different position, if the wound became infected in the lake water, or if the man was not able to get to shore quickly and to the hospital.
9 Death - The Goose Hunt
The Minnesota man got away pretty lucky, as the case of Perry Alvin Price III demonstrates. Price was in Houston in 2008 when he went on a goose hunt with his dog, using the back of his truck as his firing place. The 46-year-old shot down a goose and then put the gun down, opening the tailgate so that he could release his tracking dog. The chocolate Labrador retriever, called Arthur, bounded out of the truck – but not before stepping on the shotgun. It caused the gun to discharge, hitting Price’s femoral artery. His hunting partner Daniel Groberg tried to stop the blood flow, but the wound turned out to be fatal. "It's the strangest case that I've seen," said Sherriff Joe LaRive. "We couldn't talk to Perry and Groberg was at the front of the truck when he heard the shotgun blast and didn't see what happened." A muddy footprint on the gun handle was the evidence that cinched the case.
8 Near-Death - A French Hand
Though he didn’t lose his life, there were serious consequences for a 55-year-old French man’s lack of gun safety. He was sitting down while hunting deer, waiting for one of the animals to appear, in 2012. He had a few dogs with him which were, by all accounts, very friendly and fond of him. One of the dogs jumped on him, looking for a bit of a cuddle, when he stepped his paw on the trigger of his shotgun. The awkward movement of the gun led to the bullet shattering part of the man’s right hand. He was flown to a hospital in Bordeaux in an air ambulance, but the medics were not able to save his hand, and it was amputated. He since said that the injury was not the dog’s fault, but his own, and that he still loved his canine companion. He even described it as “adorable”.
7 Death - Alex The Rat
You might not think that a pet rat could be very dangerous at all. They might carry diseases, but then this is usually mitigated by having them vaccinated and checked up by a vet. Unfortunately, 10-year-old Aiden Pankey was to discover in 2013 that rat bites can still be a dangerous thing. He was given a new pet rat by his grandmother to provide companionship to his existing rat. While the new rat, Alex, was settling in, he was still a bit jumpy. He bit Aiden – something that rats often do when nervous, and is certainly not meant to kill – and he came down with severe stomach pains. Aiden was soon in the hospital, where he died from rat-bite fever, a bacterial infection. Alex was only his pet for two weeks before he managed to kill his owner. It’s not clear what happened to him after the incident, but we doubt it was anything good.
6 Near-Death - In The Buttocks
Where’s the most unfortunate place you could have your dog shoot you? Well, in 2011, a duck hunter in Utah found out. It’s the usual story that you know by now: one of the two hunters put his 12-gauge shotgun across the bow of the boat and went out to get the decoys. The deputy on the scene can tell us the rest. “The dog did something to make the gun discharge. I don't know if the safety device was on,” he said, before concluding, “It's not impossible the dog could have taken it off safety." 27 pellets were fired into the man’s backside from a distance of 12 feet. He avoided serious injury because he was wearing thick waders, and presumably because of the height of the boat relative to his own height in the water. If it had been a little deeper, or the boat’s bow a little higher, he could have received a life-threatening injury. If he had been bending down facing the boat, he could even have been hit in the head.
5 Death - Blind Leading The Blind
A blind man was killed in January 2017 after his dog failed to lead him away from the edge of a train platform. The seeing-eye dog was supposed to bring him to the middle of the platform, but was evidently confused or unaware of the danger. The man was seen on CCTV walking close to the edge of the platform with the dog just behind him. He wobbled on the edge, let go of the dog’s harness to try and gain some stability, and fell onto the tracks. He was then hit by the train that was approaching on the Keihin Tohoku Line in Warabi, and killed. He was pronounced dead in hospital. It’s apparently not the only recent incident of a blind man being hit by a train in Japan, with another being killed on the Aoyama-Itchome subway station in Tokyo in August 2016. Protestors want an audio system which will warn passengers if they are too close to the edge of the platform.
4 Near-Death - The Deer Hunter
Billy E. Brown was a man from Florida (you guessed it) who went out to hunt some deer in 2011. The 78-year-old man was driving down a bumpy road with his dog, called Eli, and a friend. They had propped up a Browning .308 calibre rifle between them, and Eli was bouncing around between the front and back seats in a state of excitement. He knocked the rifle down so that it was pointing at Brown’s right leg, then managed to switch off the safety before also standing on the trigger and causing it to fire. It’s not clear how the bulldog managed to do all of this before the hunting buddy intervened, but he did. Brown was subsequently shot in the thigh, ending up with a damaged femoral artery, damaged bone, and severe blood loss. He managed to survive the incident, though through the sheer luck of being able to get to a hospital in time rather than any planning on his part.
3 Death - Not Seeing The Subway
Here’s another example of a seeing eye dog not really doing its job too well. The first fatal accident in New York City involving a blind person and their guide dog happened in 1993, when Pamela Schneider took a trip to the subway with her trained dog, Pepper. Pepper had been trained to walk on the left of his owner, but also to position herself between the owner and the edge of the platform. It seems that the confusion arose because the Pennsylvania Station express stop has platform edges on both sides. The Labrador Retriever failed to stop her going over the edge of the platform onto the southbound express tracks on the Broadway line. Schneider had time to get up and try to find the edge of the platform with her hands, but the No. 3 express train was not able to apply the brakes in time, dragging her body 20 feet before coming to a stop.
2 Near-Death - Cooking With Cat
Not to be outdone by dogs, cats have also got into the action of almost killing their owners. Joseph Stanton was the 29-year-old man who almost met his maker at the hands of his own pet cat in Michigan in 2005. He was cooking in the kitchen and, naturally, had a 9mm handgun resting on the side (who doesn’t cook with their guns nearby?). One of his cats did what comes naturally to cats, and knocked his gun onto the floor, where it discharged on impact. It hit him in the lower torso, and he was taken to the Iron River Hospital where his condition was stabilized. It seems that he actually had more than one cat, which makes it even odder that he didn’t expect the gun to get knocked down. Perhaps he was worried that he might have to take defensive action against his dinner – or make his enemies eat lead.
1 Death - The Crush Of Love
A particularly tragic story came from New Zealand in 2012, when a zoo owner was crushed to death by the elephant that she had nursed back to health for the past 2 years. Helen Schofield spent a lot of time caring for Mila, a 3.1 ton elephant who had been previously working in a circus under the name Jumbo. Mila was left emotionally scarred by her treatment there, and in particular would often have panic attacks, with Schofield comforting and soothing her back to calm at the Franklin Zoo.
On this occasion, Mila panicked and picked Schofield up in her trunk, squeezing her for reassurance – and unwittingly crushing her to death. "It would appear to be a tragic accident," said Bob Kerridge, Auckland SPCA executive director, when asked whether the attack was deliberate. The incident certainly set Mila’s recovery back. The elephant would often become unsettled when blasting was carried out in a nearby quarry.