One individual sees his neighbor abusing the neighbor’s dog; he confronts the neighbor, the situation escalates, the individual runs inside his house to retrieve his shotgun, shoots, and hits the abuser in the neck. The shooter is not charged with a crime, or even arrested! How is this possible? To find out why this case was all legal bark and no legal bite, we asked for an explanation from Michele Byington, a Texas Law Shield Independent Program Attorney and attorney at the law firm of Walker & Byington.
“First, it’s clear in all stories on this incident that the reporters only talked to the victim’s mother, and as we all know, most mothers will do almost anything for the sake of their kids, even fudge the facts. So we have to take her statements with a grain of salt.” She went on to state that, even with just the mother’s statements alone, we can draw some inferences from this situation.
Michele explained that here in Texas, animal abuse can potentially be a felony charge, depending on the circumstances. Even so, Texas has no provision allowing for the use of deadly force against a felony such as this. “As much as you’d want to shoot an animal abuser, the law doesn’t provide you any legal justifications for doing so.” She said the most important facet, from a justification standpoint, was the mother of the abuser’s statement of “My son attacked him in some form or fashion because they were talking about the dog.”
Given that the abuser was in his 20’s, and the gun owner was in his 60’s, it is very likely that a scuffle could prove dangerous, from a simple disparity of force perspective. “This involves a little reading between the lines; however, it’s clear this young person had an anger issue of some kind as he was beating his dog, and then attacked this other man. It is not impossible that the 20-year-old then went to grab his gun to further unlawfully attack the older gentleman, and found out that he had made a huge mistake. But we just don’t know these details.”
Michele emphasized that the most important take away from this story, even with such limited facts, is that it would take more than witnessing dog abuse to justify a shooting. “We have to look to the other aspects of the encounter, such as the attack on the neighbor, or some other action by the dog-abuser, to justify the shooting. Otherwise, just shooting an animal abuser would be a crime.”
Michele finished by stating that the law pertaining to animals, both in defending against vicious attacking animals, and defending innocent animals themselves (whether they are your animals or otherwise) is not the most well-written statute, and could do with some legislative attention. “As the next legislative session draws near, it may be time to point out to our local legislators that statutes regarding animals and self-defense desperately need to be revised.”
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