The HCSO’s documented response to a shots fired call on Thanksgiving.

A Fortuna family is mourning after an off-duty California Department of Fish and Wildlife game warden reportedly shot their puppy “JuJu” to death on Thanksgiving in front of their 10-year-old.

“JuJu.” | Photoso provided by the Farfan family.

The Humboldt County Sheriff’s Office confirmed that deputies responded to a shots fired call that day on Loop Road in Fortuna at 8:23 a.m.

“Investigating deputies learned that the dog’s owners had let their two dogs out of their home earlier that morning,” HCSO spokesperson Samantha Karges told the Outpost. “The dogs left the yard and went onto a neighbor’s property. One of the dogs then reportedly began attacking the neighbor’s chicken, at which time the neighbor shot and killed the dog. Deputies found that the neighbor’s actions were in compliance with Food and Agriculture Code Section 31102.”

Lifelong Fortuna resident Becky Farfan said she’s concerned that her neighbor, who the Outpost confirmed to be CDFW game warden and former U.S. Coast Guard Joshua Zulliger, shot the dog without taking time to notice her grandson standing 30 to 40 feet away.

“My grandson was calling both pups; the female came back to him,” Farfan said. “He proceeded over a little hill where he saw [Zulliger’s] wife throw the dog off of the chicken. Then, Boom! A gun went off and my grandson saw his little dog yelp and fall over dead.”

The Outpost contacted Zulliger about the incident. H said that he would not have killed the dog if he knew it was his neighbor’s pet, adding that he made the decision to protect his chickens, which he sees as both livestock and pets.

“Imagine drinking coffee with your family in the morning and then two dogs come flying down into your backyard and start terrorizing your chickens,” Zulliger said. “I grabbed my rifle and went outside in my bare feet. The dog was shaking the chicken in its mouth violently trying to kill it. I had a very safe shot with a very safe background and I made a decision. It might not have been the best decision but I made a decision.”

One of the biggest disagreements between the Farfans and Zulliger, which has fueled tension between the families in the last few days, is whether or not the chicken was in the dog’s mouth at the time of the shooting. Based on the child’s eye-witness account, the dog had a mouth full of feathers, but the family had safely recovered the wounded chicken. Zulliger says the chicken was in the dog’s mouth when he took the shot.

“I am a dog lover,” Zulliger said. “I absolutely adore dogs. This was a horrible situation that I was put in due to a lack of control of other people’s dogs. I had never seen that dog before. Had I known whose dog it was, it would have changed things.”

The incident fueled heated internet comments from local community members when the Farfans shared their side of the story on social media. Zulliger said that he didn’t want to get involved with the internet comments, and said he had a neighborly relationship with the Farfans before the shooting.

“Who’s the victim?” he said. “Maybe it’s the guy sitting in his backyard, drinking coffee, when his livestock is attacked?”

While the HCSO determined that Zulliger was within his rights to shoot the 6-month old French bulldog, the family says it has serious concerns about Zulliger’s lack of remorse and his quick decision to shoot the puppy with their 10-year-old looking on 30 to 40 feet away.

“My son keeps saying he’s having flashbacks,” mother of the 10-year-old and owner of the slain $4,000 puppy Angela Farfan said. “I can understand that, when I blink my eyes I see my dead dog in the driveway.”

Angela Farfan added that she’s in the process of filing a complaint with the CDFW about the shooting. The Outpost reached out to the CDFW and was informed that the agency is aware of the incident.

“We are looking into this matter currently and have no public statement at this time,” CDFW spokesperson Kirsten Macintyre said.

While the family said it doesn’t condone their puppy chasing one of Zulliger’s chickens, Becky Farfan said that she was infuriated by Zulliger’s reaction after she confronted him about the shooting.

“He came to the door smiling,” she said. “I asked why he didn’t just scare it off. ‘Why didn’t you shoot the gun in the air? Why did you have to kill little JuJu?’ He said it was his right; the dog was on his property.”

Zulliger, who expressed concern with how people may interpret the story, said he only acted to save the lives of his chickens.

“Feathers and blood were flying,” Zulliger said. “They’re livestock and loving pets. It’s my right to protect my livestock. I’m upset that somebody allows their dog to roam free and kill other people’s livestock. What’s the difference between cattle and pet chickens that eat blueberries out of your hand?”

One of Zulliger’s neighbors, who chose to remain nameless, also contacted the Outpost to express their concerns about the puppy’s death, saying that Zulliger also threatened to shoot their dog after it killed one of his chickens in 2018.

“His dogs are on my property often, by the way,” the unnamed neighbor said.

In an effort to comfort the Farfans, the same neighbor provided them with Chinese lanterns that they released into the sky Monday night as a final sendoff for “JuJu.”

Still coping with their sadness, Becky Farfan said that her family has found solace in the kind words that were sent to them by local community members on social media.

“Our family is resilient; we will get through it,” she said. “I just think this guy needs to know what the neighborhood and community thinks of it.”

The Farfan’s release a lantern in honor of their lost dog.