A Shawnigan Lake sheep rancher could face criminal and animal cruelty charges after shooting a family’s pet dog on his property with a high-powered rifle, forcing a veterinarian to amputate its leg.

It happened Saturday morning when two dogs, Henry and Floyd, got loose from Ashley Philip and Desi Cummings’ fenced home on Shawnigan Lake Road.

Shortly after, the pet owners got a call from a local veterinarian notifying them their dog had been found injured.

“When we got to the vet’s office we learned that Henry had been shot by somebody,” said Philip. “We were basically told we were going to be given two options, we either had to put Henry down, or we had to amputate his leg.”

A friend of the couple told them he heard a dog crying out near a rural property on McKernan Road and rushed to its aid.

“He went to the rescue and saw Henry cornered in a fenced yard with the neighbour walking around, with his rifle, more or less hunting to kill,” Cummings said.

The family claims the rancher, Peter Pronk, never fired a warning shot and was instead shooting to injure or kill.

Pronk told CTV News he threw rocks at the “aggressive” dogs several times, but they continued to advance on his sheep – leaving him no choice.

“When I turned around and saw the dogs up the driveway, I had no choice. I had to do something,” he said. “You never like shooting dogs. Nobody likes to shoot an animal. You are in that position where you basically are defending yourself. I’m not aggressive, I’m defending.”

Pronk is now being investigated by both RCMP and the BC SPCA’s animal cruelty section.

He was arrested Saturday and had two of his rifles seized, but he has not been charged.

“I feel good in a way that I can honestly say I did not have any choice whatsoever. I did exactly what I had to do,” the rancher said.

He reiterated a plea he said he’s issued to families with dogs that’ve come on to his property before: “Control your dog.”

Philip and Cumming, who recently moved to Shawnigan Lake with their two young children, said the experience has been a tough and costly one for them.

“You never think that this kind of stuff would ever happen, especially in such a close-knit town,” said Cummings. “And it happened just down the road from our house.”

“It’s so irresponsible. It’s so inhumane and cruel,” Philip said. “It could’ve been anybody’s dog. Henry, he’s not even 40 pounds.”

The dog was seized by the SPCA and will be released back to the family if they can cover the costs for his amputation.

B.C.’s Provincial Livestock Act says that a person may kill a dog if the person finds the dog “running at large” and “attacking or viciously pursuing livestock.”

With a report from CTV Vancouver Island’s Scott Cunningham