Dog killed by bow hunter inspires new bill to restrict hunting

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TRENTON -

Two New Jersey lawmakers have introduced a law named for a family dog recently killed by a bow hunter.

“Tonka’s Law” would completely change access for hunters when in residential neighborhoods. It would also require homeowners who allow hunters in their backyard woods to hunt to notify their neighbors by mail.

Tonka’s owner Elizabeth Mongno says that on Sept. 20, she was walking Tonka up her driveway when he took off into the woods after spotting some deer. She says she found him minutes later with an arrow through his heart.

RELATED: Hunter shoots, kills dog he mistook for coyote

“If I had known there was somebody in the woods I definitely would've done something differently, hands down,” she says. “I would've just made sure that I had a death grip on my dog and my kid and walked right into the house."

Romeo Antonuccio, the hunter who shot Tonka, had permission from one of Mongno’s neighbors to hunt deer. He told police that he thought Tonka was a coyote.

The family says they disagree with that claim, arguing that Tonka was wearing a collar and weighs 50 pounds more than a coyote.

Now, with the help of two New Jersey state senators, they are fighting to make sure this doesn’t happen again.

Democrat Sen. Ray Lesniak and Republican Sen. Kip Bateman announced Tonka’s Law on Facebook Live Wednesday evening. Along with notification, the bill would increase the buffer zone between hunters and homes.

"The law used to be you cannot hunt within 450 feet of a residence,” Lesniak said. But Gov. Chris Christie changed the law to put the butter at 150 feet in 2010.

The proposed bill would put that distance back to 450 feet.

"That makes a big difference. If a bow can travel 150 feet, I don't know that I’d really want someone standing 151 feet from my property line,” Mongno says.

Sen. Lesniak says that he wants to get the bill signed into law by the end of the year.

"You think you can walk in the woods without being in harm’s way,” the senator says.

Antonuccio is facing charges and could lose his hunting license as a result of killing the dog. He has a court date Nov. 9.

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