They came with signs, matching outfits and Husky dogs.
More than two dozen people stood in front of the Wake County Courthouse Monday to ask the district attorney to pursue a maximum sentence for Douglas Joseph Hagler, a Cary man charged with felony animal cruelty for allegedly stabbing his dog to death with a sword on May 9.
Many in the crowd were part of a group called Justice for Koda, which Raleigh resident Aimee Bridges launched on social media shortly after the attack. The group wants prosecutors to seek the maximum penalty for Hagler, and a petition on change.org has garnered more than 20,000 signatures in support of the cause.
Hagler’s case was scheduled to be heard in Wake County District Court Monday, but it was continued.
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Hagler, 47, could face anywhere from eight months in jail with probation to a maximum of 19 months in jail, said assistant district attorney Matt Lively. Lively said the terms of the sentencing are determined by the Class H felony law and a suspect’s background.
“We intend to present the strongest case that we have,” he told a crowd outside the courthouse.
Hagler was charged May 10 after a 911 caller told police that he saw a man using a sword to stab a Husky to death.
“He kept saying, ‘That dog’s a killer.’ He kept saying that,” the caller told the 911 dispatcher.
Hagler’s roommate, Ashley Collins, 32, said at the time that the dog attacked her twice in the days leading up to the arrest.
Collins, reached Tuesday, declined to comment on the group’s efforts and said Hagler was unavailable for comment. He was released on a $5,000 bond.
On Monday, some of the demonstrators wore shirts with the dog’s name, “Koda,” emblazoned in purple letters across the front. The Justice for Koda group has made and sold more than 100 of the shirts for $20 apiece, Bridges said.
“I’ve shipped them as far as the U.K.,” she said.
Bridges thinks the campaign has gained steam because people want to see stronger penalties for animal abusers. Some animal abusers should serve as many as five years in jail, she said.
Bridges, who adopted a Siberian Husky from a rescue center, considers the Hagler case especially heinous. The dog’s cries can be heard on the 911 call.
“What are you doing to that dog?” the unidentified caller shouted. “He just stabbed the Husky with a sword.”
Bridges said some of the supporters cried and hugged her when talking about the case because it reminded them of abuse they had witnessed or experienced.
“Our goal, what we’d like to see happen, is that Koda’s remains be returned to us,” Bridges said, adding that they’d like to spread the ashes at the Cary dog park.
Lively told the group Monday that “we appreciate and hear you” and said he had looked through their petition.
“We take seriously anyone who has an interest in the case,” he said.
Last month, Collins said Hagler acquired Koda in October and she moved into the Harrison Avenue home in April. She said Collins said Koda had attacked May 7 and 9. She said the dog first attacked her when she was home alone with him, she said. He bit her on the leg, right arm and left hand, she said.
She said she was standing next to Koda on May 9, the day her roommate was arrested, when he “latched onto the left side of my face.” She said she was being treated for dog bite wounds in a hospital when police arrested Hagler.