Dog owners hope Jake’s alleged shooter will be tried under ‘Susie’s Law’

Published 12:00 am Tuesday, November 11, 2014

FAITH — Jake, a brown-and-white, blue-eyed hound dog, will be 4 years old Christmas Day. The past year has not been a good one for Jake, nor the Haussmann family who has been taking care of him since he was shot and paralyzed Feb. 7.
Jake spends most of his time in the living room of Karen and Carl Haussmann’s Stone Pointe Drive home with an absorbent pad under him or a diaper tied around his hind quarters. The bullet, still imbedded in his shoulder, paralyzed him from the chest down so he can’t control his bodily functions.
Karen Haussmann evacuates his bladder a couple of times a day and cleans Jake and his bed as needed. He can crawl a little bit across the floor, but for a real change of scenery the family carries him to the porch so he spend time outside with the other dogs.
The Haussmanns also figured out a way to fit him into a child’s wheelchair so he can move under the power of his front legs. In about five or six minutes, Carl said, Jake tires out, but they’re hoping sometime in the future they can find a better wheeled contraption for Jake to use.
The surgery, tests, lab work, treatment for infections, veterinarian visits, diapers, wipes and therapy for Jake have been expensive.
“I’m sure we’re at $12,000 easily,” Carl Haussmann said. “It’s a lot of money, but it’s our decision on that.”
In October, the Granite Quarry-Faith Police Authority charged Eric E. Hillard, 47, of Faith with felony cruelty to animals in connection with Jake’s shooting. A probable cause hearing for Hillard is scheduled for Rowan District Court Wednesday morning.
Advocates for the Haussmanns hope Hillard will be prosecuted under “Susie’s Law,” which for those convicted allows an active prison sentence of up to 10 months for the Class H felony.
If Hillard were found guilty under the law, it is believed to be the first time Susie’s Law has been applied in Rowan County. Letters have been written to District Attorney Brandy Cook asking that Hillard be prosecuted to the fullest extent.
The Haussmans were finishing up Monday a victim’s impact statement for the court.
“I want to see a conviction,” Carl Haussmann said. “I don’t want to see it pled down.”
Karen Haussman said she wants word to get out that cruelty to animals can’t be tolerated.
“We want people to be aware,” she said. “We want them to know people are watching. … I’m not anti-gun or anything. I shoot, but for somebody just to shoot a dog — I want him prosecuted to the fullest extent of the law.”
Susie was a mixed breed dog in Greensboro who at 8 weeks old was beaten and set on fire by her owner’s boyfriend because Susie had licked his baby’s face.
Ten days after the dog was brutalized, she was found near death in a Greensboro park. She had second- and third-degree burns over 60 percent of her body, a broken jaw, teeth missing and ears burned to the nubs.
Open wounds running down her back were infested with maggots.
Many people were involved in Susie’s recovery as she healed in an animal shelter. She survived and at three months old was adopted. Since then, Susie has been trained as a therapy dog, even working with burn victims.
The person who abused Susie received a sentence of 4 to 6 months in prison for burning personal property and a four- to five-month suspended sentence for animal cruelty. The active sentence was really for burning the girlfriend’s personal property — it could have been a chair, but just happened to be a dog.
When Jake was first shot, police first filed the report as miscellaneous property damage.
Upset with what it considered too light of a sentence for an animal abuser, a grassroots effort in Greensboro worked for a new law, Susie’s Law, to allow for tougher sentences for those convicted of animal cruelty.
The law became effective in December 2010, It reclassified felony cruelty to animals from a Class I felony to a Class H felony and also elevated the A1 misdemeanor of intentionally starving an animal to death to a Class H felony.
Salisbury attorney Reid Acree, an animal rights advocate and board member of Faithful Friends Animal Sanctuary, has sent Cook a letter noting his representation of the Haussmanns as the case moves forward. The Haussmanns are likely to file a civil suit for damages after the criminal case plays out in court.
If he could, Carl Haussmann said, he would seek $10 million in damages. He said Jake, who was in the couple’s backyard inside a chain-link fence, was shot only 200 yards from Faith Elementary School.
He has seen his wife cry only five times in their 31 years of marriage, Carl Haussmann said, and twice it has been over Jake since the shooting.
“We’ll be taking care of Jake for years to come,” Carl Haussmann added.
The Haussmanns offered a $5,000 reward for information leading to a conviction of Jake’s shooter. They think offering the reward provided the information leading to Hillard’s arrest, and the reward could be another expense connected to the shooting.
Karen said the couple will have to delve into their retirement savings to pay the reward.
Jake was shot once in the left side of the neck. X-rays suggest the bullet was .22-caliber in size. The bullet shattered two pieces of vertebrae, which in turn damaged his spine and caused the paralysis
“He was in the prime of his life,” Carl Haussmann said. “That was one, strong, beautiful dog.”
Haussmann said he can see  Jake’s frustration at times when he goes to move but his back legs don’t respond. Right after the shooting, Jake couldn’t bark, but Karen Haussmann said some of his voice has returned.
“His bark is a little bit muted,” she said.
The couple also are happy with Jake’s overall attitude and health, given his injury. Everyone in the family takes their turns with looking after Jake. It also helps for Jake to be around the family’s other dogs: Skipper, Smeagol and Dozer.
“They don’t feel sorry for themselves,” Karen Haussmann said of dogs in general.
Carl Haussman knows why Jake’s spirits are gnerally good. Karen has been doing much of the heavy lifting.
“He’s got the best caretaker in the world,” Carl said.
Contact Mark Wineka at 704-797-4263, or