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Kristi Noem’s story about shooting her dog jolts the US presidential election

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Rugged ranch fate, or cruel judgment? South Dakota Governor Kristi Noem, a potential Donald Trump 2024 running mate, has shocked Americans by revealing she once shot her family dog – a risky acknowledgement in a nation that cherishes its pets.

In her forthcoming memoir, obtained by The Guardian newspaper, the conservative Republican describes how, after a hunting excursion gone awry, she shot and killed her “untrainable” 14-month-old dog Cricket.

“I hated that dog,” Noem, 52, wrote in No Going Back, according to excerpts published by The Guardian.

She explained how Cricket had spoiled a pheasant hunt with her “excitement”, then killed several chickens belonging to a local family. The only solution, according to Noem, was to put her down.

South Dakota Republican Governor Kristi Noem. File photo: AP

“It was not a pleasant job,” she wrote, “but it had to be done. And after it was over, I realised another unpleasant job needed to be done” – Noem went on to explain how she had killed a “nasty and mean” goat.

The revelation jolted this year’s election season and provoked a deluge of reactions among political commentators, in social media and on talk shows.

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Dogs occupy a special place in American life, and public figures often get pilloried when they mistreat canines – as Republican presidential nominee Mitt Romney learned in 2012 when he recounted how his family tied their dog Seamus to the roof on a car trip.

Now Noem is similarly in the dog house, a potential hindrance because her name comes up regularly in discussions over who Trump, the Republican presumptive presidential nominee, will pick as his vice-presidential candidate.

Trump himself faced dog drama when in 2017 the real estate mogul’s detractors frowned at the fact that he was the first White House occupant in more than 100 years without a canine companion.

Democratic President Joe Biden’s team jumped at the opportunity, posting Friday on X: “Trump VP contender Kristi Noem brags about shooting her 14-month-old puppy to death”.

As the story snowballed, Democratic governors Tim Walz of Minnesota and Gretchen Whitmer of Michigan urged X users to “Post a picture with your dog that doesn’t involve shooting them and throwing them in a gravel pit”.

On the talk show The View, the presenters had a field day.

“The only woman I know who shot dogs was Cruella de Vil,” quipped one, referring to the villain in Disney classic 101 Dalmatians.

Another branded Noem’s actions “despicable”. “Sometimes dogs, they are like your children,” she said.

South Dakota Democratic Senate Minority Leader Reynold Nesiba considered Noem’s disclosure calculated.

He said the story has circulated for years among lawmakers that Noem killed a dog in a “fit of anger” and that there were witnesses. He speculated that it was coming out now because Noem is being vetted as a candidate for vice-president.

“She knew that this was a political vulnerability, and she needed to put it out there, before it came up in some other venue,” he said. “Why else would she write about it?”

Noem wrote in her book how killing Cricket shows she is prepared, in politics and in ranch life, to do what is necessary – even if it’s “difficult, messy and ugly”.

On Sunday she tweeted that “people are looking for leaders who are authentic, willing to learn from the past, and don’t shy away from tough challenges”.

Noem added: “As I explained in the book, it wasn’t easy. But often the easy way isn’t the right way”.

Few people appear convinced.

On Monday Hillary Clinton, the Democrat who lost to Trump in 2016, reposted a message she put out in 2021: “Don’t vote for anyone you wouldn’t trust with your dog.”

“Still true,” she added.

Additional reporting by Associated Press

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