Dog Shoots Owner While Hunting Jackrabbits in New Mexico

Sonny Gilligan and Charlie, a 120-pound Rottweiler mix. (Photo: Mark Gilligan)

Dogs may be “man’s best friend,” but not because of their marksmanship.

A 74-year-old man in New Mexico was shot by one of his dogs last week while he and his three canine hunting companions were out pursuing jackrabbits near Las Cruces, according to local media.

Mark Gilligan told reporters that his father, Sonny, often takes his three dogs, Charlie, Cowboy, and Scooby, on hunting trips in his pickup truck. Sonny lets his dogs eat the rabbits he shoots, and his son says his father has always enjoyed pampering his pooches.

“He spoils his dogs, you know. He calls them his boys. He’s very fond of his animals,” Mark said.

On this most recent trip, however, Sonny had left his shotgun in the back seat of his pickup. It’s unclear whether the safety had been switched to “fire,” but the gun was loaded, so when Charlie’s paw got caught on the trigger, the gun sent a round through the front seat and into Sonny’s back.

“Charlie got his foot in the trigger of the gun and I leaned forward and he slipped off the seat and caught the trigger — and it shot,” Sonny told the Las Cruces Sun News. “It was a freak accident but it’s true, that’s what happened.”

Sonny was able to call 911 before passing out, and Mark praised the first responders who saved his father’s life.

“He was done, he would’ve died. I can’t say enough about the Sheriff’s deputies, because without them my dad was dead,” Mark said.

SEE ALSO: Kitten Fights Two Deer and Wins, Caught on Video

Sonny echoed his son’s sentiments.

“I was very fortunate I could get to my phone,” Gilligan said. “The DASO (Doña Ana County Sheriff’s Office) first-responders saved my life. If they waited 10 more minutes I would’ve died. I lost so much blood. I know I actually passed to the other side just before getting to the hospital but they were able to revive me through CPR and bring me back. I have so much appreciation to the doctors and first-responders who saved my life.”

Sonny’s injury left him in critical condition, but even before he was moved out of the intensive care unit, he wanted to know whether or not his dogs would be all right. Mark says when his father heard the animals had been taken to a county shelter, Sonny’s main concern was getting his dogs out of what he called, “doggie jail.”

Mark also pointed out that even though Charlie could have killed his father, Sonny has forgiven his furry friend.

“It was an accident, although they tease me asking me if he did it on purpose,” Sonny told the Sun News. “Truth is, (Charlie’s) a big, loving dog and would never hurt anybody on purpose.”

***Buy and Sell on GunsAmerica! All Local Sales are FREE!***

About the author: Jordan Michaels has been reviewing firearm-related products for over four years and enjoying them for much longer. With family in Canada, he’s seen first hand how quickly the right to self-defense can be stripped from law-abiding citizens. He escaped that statist paradise at a young age, married a sixth-generation Texan, and currently lives in Waco. Follow him on Instagram @bornforgoodluck and email him at

{ 9 comments… add one }
  • Gary November 1, 2019, 9:13 am

    Just how stupid is the reporter that actually ask this poor old man if he thought his dog intentionally meant to pull the trigger and shoot him?? And even dumber, the HUNTER actually answered that stupid question!!
    First in most states I know of it is against the law to put a loaded long gun in a motor vehicle. There is a reason for just saw it. To allow his dogs to then stomp around on said firearm is just simply stupid.
    So, the NEWS writes a story about a dog shooting its owner…WHY didn’t they question the DOG?? They seem to believe it’s capable of human thought…but obviously the “reporter” isn’t!

  • Kurt Heinlein November 12, 2018, 11:00 am

    Lol, Peta had gotten to this dog & brainwashed to take revenge on its master!

  • JC November 10, 2018, 7:15 pm

    So, the dog was hunting jackrabbits and shot his owner by mistake?

  • Robert Stewart November 8, 2018, 5:40 pm

    It could have been worse. This is why my elders repeatedly told me never get in a vehicle with a loaded rifle or shotgun, and why I repeatedly do the same with my kids and fellow hunters. The reason why I say it could have been worse is that when I was growing up it did. An acquaintance went hunting and put his shotgun in the back of the station wagon. He threw a sleeping bag over it and let his two dogs ride in the back. When he didn’t come home, a search was organized. He had been shot by his own gun in the abdomen.

    Based on the scene, we think that a dog jumping or stepping around clicked off the safety. When he pulled the shotgun out, the trigger probably hung on the sleeping bag and discharged.

    This is something I have not ever forgotten.

  • volsfans November 7, 2018, 10:13 am

    depends on state laws , my state you still hunt out of blinds , track , and use skills .. my grandfather taught me to hunt the right way . i in return taught my kids and grand kids. if we kill it, we eat it , or feed the hungry never waste the the food God has given us..

  • rappini November 7, 2018, 9:11 am

    Hey Slim, I’m going to tell you what my Medicare Wellness Nurse told me, when you get up tight just LET IT GO. It’s difficult but there it is.
    Besides we now have the Senate.

  • Slim November 7, 2018, 3:58 am

    Yeah… His dog shot him… Right! So that dog gets his foot all the way to the trigger, AND THEN ALSO SLIPS at the SAME TIME… Uh huh! Sure! Just glad I’m not reading a story about the poor slave dogs getting shot. Takes some real skill having dogs do the real hunting by tracking, finding, cornering, and to eventually flush the animal to the so called “hunter” that sits on his ass getting drunk with a loaded weapon in their hands that takes damn near point blank shots at the animal the poor dogs brought to their feet. And FYI… I’m not some hippy that hates guns, just fools who in my opinion use and abuse these dogs to get what they want in the end. Also I live in the Ocala National Forest and watch these fools that park there trucks on the edge of the road everyone drives on and let’s two to eight dogs or so per truck and some times these losers have multiple trucks full of caged dogs that all get let loose at the same time and then for hours they sit and get drunk sitting in the back of the pickup trucks bed and wait till the real hunters bring the deer or possibly bear right to them and then all those drunk hiped up rednecks blast away… Real skills!!! What ever happened to setting up a blind or actually tracking and hunting with a rifle with a back up pistol?

    • JOHN T. FOX November 7, 2018, 6:05 pm


    • Xyz Xyzy November 9, 2018, 12:33 pm

      You are a real know-nothing douche. Maybe you should get off the couch and go hunting sometime. Maybe fishing is more up your alley.

Leave a Comment

Send this to a friend