Case Snapshot
Case ID: 19604
Classification: Shooting
Animal: dog (non pit-bull)
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Abuse was retaliation against animal's bad behavior
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Sunday, Nov 20, 2011

County: Augusta

Charges: Misdemeanor
Disposition: Convicted

Defendant/Suspect: Christopher Scott Harris

The dog killing last year pitted neighbor against neighbor, but now the neighbors hope they can move on.

The first step was a plea agreement last week that spared the shooter felony charges and allows him to keep his state job.

Christopher Scott Harris, 47, was facing a jury trial Monday on two felony charges of torturing an animal and causing death after shooting the two dogs on Nov. 20. He pleaded guilty to two misdemeanor counts of cruelty to animals instead.

Deanie Pittkin, owner of one of the dead dogs, said she supported the reduced charges.

"Mr. Harris has a government job. If he had been convicted he would lose it, his pension and his income," she said.

Harris also cares for a daughter with cerebral palsy. "We just couldn't see that happening to his family," Pittkin said.

On Monday, Harris released a statement that read in part, "I did not enjoy killing those dogs. No decent person would enjoy killing dogs,"

Harris thanked the farming community for its support, and said he feels it's important that farmers know they have a right to protect their livestock.

"I hate that this situation ever took place, and hope that people who own dogs take care of them and realize the dangers they can pose to livestock," he said.

At a preliminary hearing in January, Ken Pittkin, Deanie Pittkin's husband, said Harris complained in April 2011 about the dogs chasing his livestock. On the day the dogs were killed, Pittkin reported hearing two gunshots.

Pittkin said Harris admitted shooting both dogs. One of the dead animals belonged to a tenant of the Pittkins.

Deputy Don Moran of the Augusta County Sheriff's Office said when he questioned Harris, the Greenville man spoke of a continuous problem with dogs coming onto his property from Pittkin's land. On the day the dogs were shot, Moran testified that Harris said he came outside from a turkey house to see his horses running from one end of a field to another.

Moran said Harris told him he saw three dogs venture from a cornfield near some deer carcasses, and admitted opening fire with a rifle. Harris also acknowledged he didn't see the dogs chase the horses.

Harris once leased space at the Pittkin's farm to train quarter horses and show horses, according to his attorney, Spencer Cross.

Because of the felony charges, Harris was suspended from his job as a corrections officer at Cold Springs Correctional Unit in Greenville for more than three months, Cross said. The DOC reinstated his position in early March.

As part of the plea deal, Harris was placed on one year of probation, ordered to pay a $1,000 fine and must serve 75 hours of community service. Half of the community service must be served at an animal shelter.

Deanie Pittkin, who described the Harris ordeal as "awkward," expressed relief the case has been resolved.

"We're just ready to get past it," she said.

"I hate that this situation ever took place, and hope that people who own dogs take care of them and realize the dangers they can pose to livestock," he said.

At a preliminary hearing in January, Ken Pittkin, Deanie Pittkin's husband, said Harris complained in April 2011 about the dogs chasing his livestock. On the day the dogs were killed, Pittkin reported hearing two gunshots.

Pittkin said Harris admitted shooting both dogs. One of the dead animals belonged to a tenant of the Pittkins.

Deputy Don Moran of the Augusta County Sheriff's Office said when he questioned Harris, the Greenville man spoke of a continuous problem with dogs coming onto his property from Pittkin's land. On the day the dogs were shot, Moran testified that Harris said he came outside from a turkey house to see his horses running from one end of a field to another.

Moran said Harris told him he saw three dogs venture from a cornfield near some deer carcasses, and admitted opening fire with a rifle. Harris also acknowledged he didn't see the dogs chase the horses.

Harris once leased space at the Pittkin's farm to train quarter horses and show horses, according to his attorney, Spencer Cross.

Because of the felony charges, Harris was suspended from his job as a corrections officer at Cold Springs Correctional Unit in Greenville for more than three months, Cross said. The DOC reinstated his position in early March.

As part of the plea deal, Harris was placed on one year of probation, ordered to pay a $1,000 fine and must serve 75 hours of community service. Half of the community service must be served at an animal shelter.

Deanie Pittkin, who described the Harris ordeal as "awkward," expressed relief the case has been resolved.

"We're just ready to get past it," she said.

References

« VA State Animal Cruelty Map
« More cases in Augusta County, VA

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