‘They were our family’: Pet owners seek justice after dogs shot, killed in West Oahu

A family says they are looking for justice after their dogs were shot and killed. (Source: KHNL/KGMB)
Published: Sep. 1, 2022 at 5:53 PM HST|Updated: Sep. 2, 2022 at 4:25 AM HST
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HONOLULU (HawaiiNewsNow) - A family is looking for justice after their dogs were shot and killed by a neighbor on his property.

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

Autele’s dogs, Bindi and Dutch, loved going to their owner’s ranch every day near Kunia.

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

Autele and her husband, Elmer Acera, said earlier this month their pups chased a mongoose onto neighboring property while Acera was feeding their horses.

“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 then another dog yelp. And then I immediately thought, oh no, I hope it’s not them.”

He said he ran over to the neighboring property to find his dogs lying on the ground dead.

He said their neighbor told them their dogs were messing with his horses, so he shot them.

“Were they attacking and harming the horses and cattle?” said Autele. “No, they have been around horses trained again, their breed is not aggressive.”

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

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

The family said the man who shot their dogs is a parolee.

They said they were called in a week later to give a statement to the Hawaii Paroling Authority.

Documents show that man was taken into custody the same day for violating his parole.

However, Autele and Acera hope he would be charged for killing their family pets.

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

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