Navan couple devastated after hunters kill pet pigs

A Navan couple is devastated after hunters shot and killed their two beloved pet pigs within metres of their home in Ottawa's east end. The man who admits to killing the animals says he deeply regrets his mistake.

'I regret everything,' says man who shot pot-bellied pigs Pickles and Rosie

Matt Nooyen and Lianne Guilbeault's pet pot-bellied pigs Pickles and Rosie were shot and killed on their Navan property Nov. 8. (Stu Mills/CBC)

A Navan couple is devastated after hunters shot and killed their two beloved pet pigs within metres of their home in Ottawa's east end.

Pickles and Rosie were companion animals to Matt Nooyen and Lianne Guilbeault, and even participated as members of the couple's wedding party in September.

The pot-bellied pigs were trained to stay on the couple's 40-hectare property on Frank Kenny Road, and never strayed far from the house, Guilbeault said. 

"They're like dogs. When you whistle they come to you."

When Nooyen and Guilbeault went out, they put Pickles and Rosie in an outdoor enclosure.
Lianne Guilbeault with her pets in happier times. (Lianne Guilbeault)

Call from hunter

That's where they'd left the animals on Nov. 8, when Guilbeault, who works at a local hospital, found a voice message on her phone from Frank Laplante, a man she'd met at a farmers' market a few weeks earlier.

Laplante had called to ask for permission to hunt on her Frank Kenny Road property.

"He thought there were two wild boars on our property," she said. "He essentially wanted permission to shoot the wild boars."

She tried to call him back to deny him permission but couldn't reach him. Nor could she reach him by email or social media.

Fearing the misunderstanding could spell danger for her pets, Guilbeault called her husband, who was working at a dairy farm across from their property, to go home and check on the pigs.

Nooyen rushed home to find the pig pen empty and Laplante and another man near his house. He asked the men what had happened to the pigs, and was told they'd run off. 

He searched for nearly an hour, but couldn't find them, Guilbeault said.

 "He knew something had happened."

A Navan couple is devastated after hunters shot and killed their two beloved pet pigs within metres of their home in Ottawa's east end. 1:16

'Pickles and Rosie were murdered'

Around 2 p.m. Guilbeault finally reached Laplante on the phone, and Laplante admitted he had shot the animals. 

"I said, 'Where are my babies?' and he said, 'They're with me,'" Guilbeault recalled through tears.

"Pickles and Rosie were murdered."

The couple called Ottawa police, and officers went to retrieve the animals' carcasses from Laplante. The pigs are now buried under a tree on the couple's property.
Pickles and Rosie participated in Nooyen and Guilbeault's wedding ceremony in September. (Lianne Guilbeault)

'I wish I could take it all back'

Reached by CBC News, Laplante said shooting the animals was an honest mistake. He said another hunter had spotted what were thought to be wild boars in the area about a week earlier.

Laplante said that's what he believed he was shooting at when he cornered the animals on Nooyen and Guilbeault's property.

I'd want her to punch me in the face, to take her anger out on me. I want to be able to say sorry.- Frank Laplante

"I basically shot them point blank," he admitted. "I thought I was doing a good thing. It never once crossed my mind that I was shooting somebody's pets. It's the biggest regret that I'm going to have to live with for the rest of my life."

Laplante said in hindsight, he should have realized they weren't wild animals.

"I wish my brain had clued in that these animals weren't wild. They weren't scared of humans. They weren't scared of us.

"I regret everything, I totally regret everything. I wish I could take it all back."

The pigs are buried under a tree on Nooyen and Guilbeault's Navan property. (Stu Mills/CBC)

He said after shooting the pigs, he noticed the pen and realized what he'd done. He said he regrets lying to Nooyen, and wishes Guilbeault could find a way to forgive him.

"I would apologize with everything that I have. I'd want to hug her and just cry on her shoulder or have her cry on me. I'd want her to punch me in the face, to take her anger out on me. I want to be able to say sorry."

Police close case, MNR investigates

Guilbeault said police told her she has few options for redress.

"The police said, 'Your option is $100 trespassing fine," Guilbeault said, adding an officer suggested the couple ask the hunters for compensation.

"The file is now complete and no criminal charges will be laid," Const. Marc Soucy told CBC News Tuesday.

The Ontario Ministry of Natural Resources and Forestry is looking into the hunting licences and gun permits of the two men.

Ministry spokesperson Jolanta Kowalski said charges under the Fish and Wildlife Conservation Act could be considered if it's demonstrated the men weren't certain what they were shooting at.

"If you don't know what you're shooting at, you shouldn't be shooting," she said.