Pet owners seek justice after dogs shot, killed by neighbor: ‘They were our family’

A family says they are looking for justice after their dogs were shot and killed. (Source: KHNL/KGMB)
Published: Sep. 3, 2022 at 3:23 PM EDT
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HONOLULU (KHNL/KGMB/Gray News) - A family in Hawaii is looking for justice after they say their dogs were shot and killed by a neighbor.

“Probably the most calm, gentlest Australian shepherds you’ve ever met,” said Tabitha Autele, the owner of the dogs.

Autele told KHNL/KGMB that her dogs, Bindi and Dutch, loved going to their ranch.

“They saw the truck come home from work, and they knew they were going to the ranch,” Autele said. “They happily jumped in the truck. That was their happy place and our happy place. But since this has happened, there’s no joy anymore.”

Autele and her husband, Elmer Acera, said their pups chased a mongoose onto a neighboring property in August while Acera was feeding their horses when the shooting happened.

“As I was walking down, I heard a gunshot and then a dog yell,” Acera said. “And then a few seconds later, I heard another gunshot and another dog yelp. And then I immediately thought, ‘oh no, I hope it’s not them.’”

Acera said he ran to the neighboring property to find his animals dead on the ground. He said his neighbor told him the dogs were messing with his horses, so he shot them.

“They have been around horses before, and their breed is not aggressive,” Autele said.

According to criminal defense lawyer Victor Bakke, people can defend themselves and their pets from other animals using reasonable force.

“They would be allowed to use force in a reasonable amount necessary to address the danger presented by the dogs,” Bakke said. “So they could hit them with a stick, kick them to get away. But pulling out a gun and shooting the dogs, unless there was a strong reason to believe that the dogs were likely to injure or kill the horse seriously, would be an abuse of force.”

The family said the man who shot their dogs is a parolee, and they were called to give a statement to the Hawaii Paroling Authority.

Documents showed that man was taken into custody the same day for violating his parole. However, the couple said they hope he would be charged for killing their family pets.

“I don’t want this case just shoved under a desk because they’re just dogs,” Acera said. “They’re not just dogs. They were our family.”

Bakke said the man could face a felony for unjustifiably shooting the dogs.