It was a tragic mistake that never should have happened.

On Sept. 20, a crossbow hunter in Readington shot and killed a family dog, mistaking the animal for a coyote.

Tonka, an Alaskan shepherd was in the woods near the home of his owners, Liz and Jim Mongno.

Tonka had taken off after a deer, and a short while later Liz Mongno found him a few hundred feet from her house.

The killing has prompted state Sen. Ray Lesniak, D-Union, to introduce a measure to be called “Tonka’s Law” that is aimed at preventing such a situation in the future.

He said Tonka’s Law would require hunters to stay at least 450 feet away from a house. Currently, hunters are allowed to hunt within 150 feet of a residence.

"That’s just ridiculous. It’s insane and we’re going to change that law," Lesniak said Wednesday.

The legislation would also require more specific notices be given to homeowners during hunting season. Lesniak said this would allow people to take extra precautions.

“This is not about hunting; it’s about safety. It was a dog this time; it could be a dog another time — it could be a child.”

He noted “years ago a bullet went very near one of the residences nearby to Tonka’s home, so this isn’t the first time there’s been a dangerous situation.”

“We don’t want any more tragedies to occur before we move the hunting far enough away from residences where there won’t be any harm by folks who want to hunt.”


Lesniak added: “Pets are part of the family and when one has died under circumstances that could be avoided, it’s felt very deeply.”

State Sen. Christopher "Kip" Bateman, R-Somerset, will co-sponsor the measure.

You can contact reporter David Matthau at

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