A year ago, Sean Austin, an animal control officer for Cabarrus County, NC animal control decided to shoot a non-aggressive dog twice because, well, hey it was just too much work to continue pursuing her. The officer was cleared of any wrongdoing in the shooting death of Bella, the dog.
Bella was a beloved pet, a companion to her canine brother and human family. She did not deserve to die.
From her death, though, came change. Perhaps not amazing, miraculous change, but the normal kind, the kind that takes time and effort and commitment.
Bella's family and friends did not stray to the shadows, disappearing from public view. This often happens to people whose pets are killed by either police or, worse, animal control officers who, when faced with a fleeing, fearful dog pull out a gun instead of compassion.
Justice for Bella was established April 29, 2010, the day Bella was killed. National media picked up the story because of the dedication and persistence of Bella's guardian and friends. From a small facebook page to a community 23,000 strong.
And Jeff Daniels, Bella's guardian, did not just get the story of Bella into the spotlight, he did not just fight against the horror of shooting a nonviolent family pet...he fought, fights, for all the dogs of Cabarrus County. He showed up at hearings, shared his story, and expressed his indignation that the local shelter kills 80% of incoming animals. He championed the no-kill mantra and encouraged others to do so as well. He is one individual and by sheer force of will, he is showing that caring is great but doing is all that matters.
Sean Austin has never said sorry.
Bella should, by all rights, be alive. She should be doing doggie things with her family. Taking walks, playing tug of war, wrestling with her brother, kissing her human sister, getting touched and petted by her family. She should be gnawing on bones and eating biscuits and enjoying toys. While her loss has transformed into a victory for other dogs in the area, she should still be alive.
I wish you were here today, Bella. I would not know it, because I would not know of you. You would be one of the many anonymous Pit Bulls who are loved and alive today. You would be like Mina, curled up and snoring in some far off city, across the country. In and out, the ebb and flow of your life...it would be existing and I would never know. That I know you ,Bella, at all is only because you suffered and died. Because your family pushed and shoved and demanded change. Because there was a great injustice perpetrated against you.
May Cabarrus County truly embrace no-kill. That will be the only light out of such needless tragedy.