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When Bella (black pit) and Jaxson broke through their fenced backyard, the ACO brought in to catch them shot Bella dead. Witnesses say Bella showed no aggression at all, only fear. No charges have been filed. On footage taken by Bella's guardian Jeff Daniels via his cell phone, Deputy ACO Austin says he never saw Bella act aggressive, and that he shot her because she wasn't worth his time:

Letter to
Sheriff's Office of Cabarrus County Sheriff D. Brad Riley
CABARRUS COUNTY COMMISSIONER Elizabeth (Liz) Poole, Vice-Chairman
and 7 others
District Attorney's Prosecutorial District #19A Roxann Vaneekhoven, District Attorney
Sheriff's Department Animal Control Division Chief Deputy Hunt
Sheriff's Department Animal Control Division Lt. David Taylor
Sheriff's Office of Cabarrus County Sheriff D. Brad Riley
On 4/29/10, Sheriff's Deputy Animal Control Officer Sean Austin shot Bella, one of two pit bulls who escaped from a fenced yard. Something is wrong when an ACO guns down a family dog as she flees between two homes. The scenario grows more problematic if that officer says the dog displayed no aggression.

When Bella and Jaxson got loose, witnesses claim the dogs ran into the yard of a neighbor who called Concord Police. Officers at the scene caught Jaxson, but Bella proved skittish.

All witnesses agree -- in written and oral testimony -- that Bella's behavior indicated fear, not aggression. Jeff Daniels later asked Deputy Austin why he killed Bella and videotaped Austin's response on his phone: "I'm not sitting here for three hours when I got calls in."

Bella inconvenienced Deputy Austin, so he shot her?

I trust that an internal investigation is well underway. I urge swift punitive action, including suspension from the department. Deputy Austin violated the North Carolina General Statues, Cabarrus County Animal Control Ordinance, and City of Concord Code of Ordinances. Animals are still legally defined as property. When Deputy Austin shot his firearm in the city, he took away the Daniels' "property" without due process of law. When he killed Bella rather than seize her, he denied their right to "redeem the animal."

Deputy Austin's behavior warrants charges and penalties. At the very least, the unprovoked killing denotes misconduct within the sheriff's department.

Bella never endangered adults or children. But even if she had, why were no warning shots, batons, or other deterrents tried first? Please equip law enforcers with the knowledge to neutralize animals perceived as aggressive -- without resorting to lethal force.

I encourage the sheriff's office to learn skills to distinguish anxiety, fear, and protective canine behaviors (i.e., barking, growling) from genuinely hostile behavior. Ordinarily an experienced animal control officer can make this distinction, but Deputy Austin failed on all counts.

Deputy Austin discharged a firearm in close proximity of children. He killed a family pet with no history of aggression. His lack of judgment demands your utmost attention. Please inform me of progress in this disturbing case.


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