Earlier this month, Cabarrus County, North Carolina animal control officers shot and killed a dog after an unsuccessful attempt at capturing her. I wrote about it here.
The initial report cleared the officer of any wrongdoing.
The dog's owners requested a second investigation. The report is available here.
The "incident" began when Jaxson and Bella got out of their yard. Neither dog had collars or id tags. Both dogs encountered a woman and her son walking their small dogs. All four dogs are barking at each other. The small dogs' owner feels threatened and calls a neighbor, a deputy. The deputy brings her service revolver and positions herself between the two loose dogs and the leashed dogs and their owner. Everyone gets away unscathed.
At 6:31 pm, two sheriff's deputies arrive and by 6:37 pm, Jaxson is safely ensconced in a patrol car. Nearly 20 minutes later, animal control officer Sean Austin arrives. This is the beginning of the end for the remaining dog, Bella.
The officers accounts are that they chased Bella around, cornering her at a few points in time. They say that Bella got low to the ground, growled and showed teeth, and charged them. Another witness flashes a broom at Bella and then claims she was acting agitated. Two other witnesses claim that the dog was not acting aggressively, that she did not growl or bark, and that she kept trying to get closer to Jaxson, who was locked up in a car. The attorney writing the report states that we cannot be sure which account is the most accurate because of witness biases and possible confusion.
For fifteen minutes after Sean Austin arrived, they chased Bella around and attempted to corral her using a variety of different methods. She was uncooperative.
That is when Sean Austin decided that the only course of action to take was to shoot Bella as she fled from him. That is, he felt the only necessary action was to shoot a fleeing dog in the back. Bella did not die after the first gunshot. Sean Austin shot Bella in an area of the neighborhood that was not in plain view of the public.
Later, the report goes over the appropriate ordinances in effect to determine whether Sean Austin violated county or state law by shooting a non-biting dog in the back.
The attorney determines that since the dogs were acting in a threatening manner that they could be, during the incident, classified as dangerous dogs. This label permits officers on scene to kill the dogs.
A brief discussion occurs regarding tranquilizer guns, a generally non lethal method of subduing aggressive animals. Sean Austin lacks training with a tranquilizer gun, but this is moot - Sean Austin would still have shot Bella as she ran away from him. He admits that he would not have used a tranquilizer gun in this situation.
The attorney finds the facts inconclusive as pertaining to the ordinance on animal cruelty. A dog can be shot when they pose imminent danger to other humans. When Bella was shot in the back, she posed no imminent danger to Sean Austin, although perhaps an argument can be made she posed imminent danger to someone out there in the world. It seems to me, based on her previous behavior, that she did not pose an imminent danger since she had not attempted to bite, maul or place teeth/claws on any living being's skin. But I am not an attorney. I am just a dog lover with an opinion.
The attorney concludes that shooting a non-biting dog in the back as she runs away is perfectly legal, according to county and state law.
There is no question that Bella and Jaxson should have been wearing tags. They should never have had the opportunity to escape. I have seen videos of the dogs - they appear to be socialized, friendly dogs. They are not the dogs you see video of who are acting like idiots everywhere they go. They appear to have been family pets and, with the exception of the id tags and collars, responsibly cared for.
Which is neither here nor there. Lots of friendly dogs act differently when left to their own devices. But Bella did not attempt to bite anyone. Even when the initial deputy on the scene brought out her service revolver, she did not choose to shoot Bella. And this is when Bella was at her most "aggressive" - barking. At no point did Bella try to attack. She was afraid and, yes, fearful dogs can be dangerous. Still, it seems that Sean Austin, after fifteen minutes of a fruitless chase, decided that Bella's life held little value, that she was too much of a hassle to pursue further.
And as she ran, in abject terror and fear, away from Sean Austin, he pointed his rifle at her and pulled the trigger, shooting her in the back. And as she screamed in pain, paralyzed and on the ground, he shot her again and ended her life.
Fifteen minutes. That is how long Sean Austin seems to spend doing his job before busting out the .22. Pity the dogs in Cabarrus County, North Carolina. I sure do.