MAPLE SHADE — A 64-year-old heavy equipment operator has been charged with shooting his neighbors' poodle with an air rifle, causing a painful injury that resulted in the dog having to be put down.

Police charged William "Wild Willie" Stroemel with second-degree counts of unlawful possession of a weapon and possession of a weapon for unlawful purposes, third-degree animal cruelty, third-degree certain persons not to have firearms, fourth-degree hindering apprehension and concealing evidence and fourth-degree unlawful possession of a weapon.

Neighbors of the Cook family heard the dog Toby howl in pain on Sept. 18 between 5:30 and 6 p.m. and alerted the family.

A veterinarian found an object in the dog's head, which prosecutors said was a pellet they connected to an air rifle in Stroemel’s possession. The dog was euthanized the next day.

Stroemel was initially charged with weapons offenses after police found a .22-caliber pistol at his home during a search on Sept. 23. The animal cruelty charges were added after a necropsy of the animal was completed on Wednesday.

Prosecutors said Stroemel used the air rifle to shoot Toby even though the dog was not on his property at the time. Investigators say Stroemel then asked a friend to hold onto the rifle.

Amber Cook said Toby was "the sweetest little dog in the world" and had helped with her grandfather's post-traumatic stress disorder.

Toby (Maple Shade Police)

More from New Jersey 101.5

Sign up for the NJ1015.com Newsletter

Get the best of NJ1015.com delivered to your inbox every day.