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Second investigation finds dog shooting was legal

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Cabarrus County Commission Chairman Jay White (left) and Cabarrus County Attorney Rich Koch. align=left

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An independent investigation has determined a Cabarrus County sheriff's deputy was within the law when he shot and killed a pit bull in a Concord neighborhood last month. The incident sparked public outrage. The dog's owners are threatening a lawsuit. The Cabarrus County Sheriff has already looked into the shooting incident and determined his deputy acted legally when he shot a pit bull known as "Bella." But county commissioners were flooded with so many angry emails they ordered their own attorney, Rich Koch, to do an investigation. He says if an officer thinks a dog is dangerous, he can shoot. "There certainly in this case is uncontradicted evidence that the two dogs Bella and Jaxson were aggressive in their behavior," says Koch. While their owners were away, the dogs escaped through a hole in the fence and cornered an elderly woman and a young child in her backyard. She called for help. Sheriff's Deputy Sean Austin, who's assigned to Animal Control, was unable to catch one of the dogs and ultimately shot her. Attorney Rich Koch says that was legal under both the state's animal cruelty laws and Cabarrus County ordinances. However, Koch does recommend the county commission revise the ordinance to give more specific guidance on how officers should deal with an animal on the loose before resorting to deadly force. Bella's owner Jeff Daniels is preparing to file a lawsuit against the county. "It's very clear our civil rights were violated and this was a criminal act," says Daniels. "And it's not gonna stop here today. There's also questions that have not been answered." For example, why didn't Deputy Austin use a tranquilizer gun instead? The Cabarrus County Sheriff says Austin is new to the animal control force and has not been trained to use a tranquilizer. He could have called another deputy who had been trained, but it was after hours and Austin thought he could handle the situation. Bella's owner also wants to know why Animal Control destroyed her body before notifying him. Sheriff Brad Riley says he doesn't know why that happened.