SALISBURY, NC (WBTV) - Salisbury attorney Reid Acree says a local man could be the first in Rowan County to be tried under a new animal abuse law that could include an active prison sentence of up to ten months in the event of a conviction.
Eric Hillard, 47, was charged in October with cruelty to animals. Police in Granite Quarry-Faith Police Authority say Hillard shot "Jake," a dog belonging to Karen and Carl Haussman. The February shooting left the dog paralyzed and in need of constant care from the Haussmans.
The Haussmans estimate that they have already spent more than $10,000 in medical bills for Jake.
The Haussmans offered a $5000 reward for information leading to the charges, and even put up a series of posters along the Faith Fourth of July parade route encouraging people to contact law enforcement about the case.
"He needs to understand that no matter what they put on him as a punishment for this," Karen Haussman told WBTV. "It's nothing compared to what we will go through and what Jake will go through for the rest of his life."
On Wednesday morning Hillard was in court for a probable cause hearing. Advocates are hopeful that District Attorney Brandy Cook will prosecute the case under what is referred to as "Susie's Law."
"We are seeking justice for our dog," Carl Haussman told WBTV. "It was just the most horrendous, terrible act of animal cruelty that's actually happened to our family."
"Susie's Law" is named for a dog that was set on fire and beaten by her owner after licking the face of the owner's young child. The dog eventually healed, and the person who beat the dog was sentenced to 4-6 months in prison for burning personal property. That property was actually the dog.
Advocates who were upset with the sentence began working for a tougher law regarding animal cruelty. That resulted in the new law making it a Class H felony. In court on Wednesday the case was scheduled to be heard in mid December. Eric Hillard told WBTV "no comment" as he left the Rowan County Courthouse.
The Haussmans do have support in the community for their case. Their attorney, Reid Acree, provided WBTV with letters from Nina Dix, Chair of Shelter Guardians, Inc, as well as Barbara Lawther, Jon Palmer, and Shannon Moore, the Board Chair of Faithful Friends of Rowan County.
In the letter written by Dix, she urges DA Cook to pursue the case under Susie's Law.
"The good people of Rowan County consider animal cruelty to be a horrible crime," Dix wrote. It has been proven that if a person will commit a brutal act against a defenseless animal, many times that person will eventually commit cruel or senseless acts against women, children, or the elderly."
Acree's paralegal Dana also proviedeprovidedckground research on "Susie's Law;"