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Animal cruelty charged in dog park shooting

The man who shot a Staffordshire bull terrier in a Texas dog park in January will be charged with cruelty to a non-livestock animal. Claiming that he feared for himself, his wife and his dog when it got into a fight with the pit bull, the man shot the animal three times with a Glock 9mm pistol. The dog was later euthanized at a veterinary clinic. Investigators say witnesses have contested the man's claim that he was acting in self-defense.

The local sheriff's department found enough evidence to suggest that the man's action was not justified in the circumstances and therefore constituted animal cruelty. The district attorney asserted that such cases are taken seriously and prosecuted fully. In Texas, animal cruelty is considered a felony. If convicted, the man could face 2 to 10 years in prison.

The shooting created something of a media storm, with dog lovers from the Houston area responding with messages of support for the dog, Diesel, and its owners. A Facebook page titled "Support for Diesel" has generated thousands of likes since the shooting, and the sheriff's department's online post about the shooting was retweeted more than 200 times. Local authorities say this case has sparked more interest than most homicides.

Criminal defense in cases of animal cruelty charges can be a difficult matter. Although the potential penalties are less than in cases of harm to humans, the defendant has to contend with a strong societal disapproval of crimes against animals. An attorney can help a client facing criminal charges establish the facts of the case, including the animal's behavioral history and the likelihood of a real or perceived threat.

Source: Houston Chronicle, "Man to be charged in Houston dog park shooting," John Boyd, March 9, 2015

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