The Rebstock family of Somervell County lost two family pets and working farm dogs in November 2008 after they were shot and killed on neighboring property.
Samantha and Don Rebstock own acreage in the county where they live with their children and raise livestock. The family uses work dogs such as Border Collies and Great Pyrenees to help guard and corral their sheep and goats.
“We are a working farm and the dogs that were missing were working farm dogs,” Samantha said.
On Nov. 11, 2008, Samantha said two of her dogs began barking at something in the far corner of their property. She said the tone of the barks didn’t indicate that anything was wrong and assumed it was workers who had access to the back of the property.
The next day, while she was hanging laundry out to dry, both dogs got out. A short time later, she heard two gunshots in the distance and began calling neighbors.
Don and their daughter Gretta, 16, started searching along with two of their other children, Zachary, 20, and Jeremy, 18.
“The next day I got permission to go to the Triple X Ranch,” Samantha said. The ranch manager helped Don and Jeremy search the property.
They found another piece of land tucked between the ranch and the Rebstock property that was being used as a hunting lease.
Don spoke to the property owner and he gave Don permission to search the property. While searching for the dogs, Don ran into Ed Smith, one of the hunters leasing the property.
Smith said he had not seen the dogs and Don asked if he would other hunters if they saw anything. Samantha said Smith seemed reluctant to help and refused to take Don’s phone number.
On Saturday, Nov. 15, Don and Gretta headed back to the hunting lease because they had spotted paw prints in the mud.
They discovered Daisey on the property. She had been shot and dragged into a ravine.
Don headed back to the house to get a blanket to wrap the dog in and ran into Smith. Don asked him about the dogs again and showed the dead dog to Smith. Smith said he did not see or shoot the dog and he wasn’t even on the property until late Wednesday afternoon.
The Rebstocks contacted the property owner again and asked him to question Smith and see if he could find out what happened to the second dog. They got a call back saying Smith would bring Dixie, who had been dead for five days, to their farm.
Samantha said Smith allegedly confessed to another hunter on the property that he had shot the dogs.
“We were very upset,” Samantha said. “I asked him on the phone, why did you shoot my dogs?”
When Smith brought the dog to the Rebstock’s farm, he said he had been sitting in the deer stand Wednesday morning when the two dogs crossed the fence. He didn’t want them to scare off any deer that might have been nearby so he shot them.
Samantha said she felt like Smith had other options to chase off the dogs if he was really worried about the deer, such as throwing a rock at them. But she felt shooting the dogs didn’t make sense because the sound of the two shots would have scared off any deer.
Samantha said her family grieved over the loss of their pets. Jeremy, whose 18th birthday was Thanksgiving weekend, had planned a camping trip with the dogs. Samantha said after the whole ordeal, Jeremy didn’t want to go at all.
Despite their grief, the family didn’t want to compound matters.
“I didn’t think I wanted to press charges against Mr. Smith,” Samantha said. “He asked what I wanted him to do and I told him I wanted him to look at my children and tell them he shot their dogs and apologize to them.”
But Samantha said Smith never did apologize and never returned any of their phone calls.
“So we went ahead and went to civil court,” Samantha said. “We asked for less than you would pay for a full blood Collie. We were still trying to show mercy.”
The Rebstocks pursued the civil suit and the court ruled in their favor. Smith was ordered to pay $2,500 in restitution.
Andrew Ottaway, an attorney from Granbury, represented Smith in the civil case but declined to comment because Smith is still involved in a related criminal case.
Smith, who was removed from the hunting lease by the property owner, was arrested on March 17 by the Somervell County Sheriff’s Office for cruelty to non-livestock animals/torture after he was indicted by a grand jury on March 4.
He was scheduled for arraignment on April 1, but his attorney, Dick Turner from Cleburne, was not able to attend court and Smith was rescheduled for May 6.
At press time, Turner had not responded for requests to comment.
Assistant District Attorney Stuart Neal confirmed there was a case against Smith but declined to comment on the details.
“This is an ongoing indicted felony case in the 18th District Court and involves a section of the penal code that involves animal cruelty,” Neal said.
“If he had been really sorry and we believed he would never have done it again, we would have dropped the whole thing,” Samantha said. “This was a very hateful, cruel thing this man did.”
Somervell County does not have a standing leash law and killing an animal that poses no immediate threat without the owner’s permission violates state law.
Sheriff Greg Doyle said a person has the right to defend themselves and property.
“You do have a right to protect yourself,” Doyle said. “If an animal is attacking and killing your goats then you can protect your livestock. But if they’re just passing through, you can’t just shoot them.”
If convicted, Smith could be sentenced up to two years in state jail and up to a $10,000 fine for each count.
“Our hope is that somebody else reading the story would wait and think for a minute before deciding to take the life of another animal,” Samantha said.