The owners of a dog who was shot and killed by a sheriff's deputy in Rains County nearly two weeks ago are pushing for legislation that would require law enforcement officers to go through special training in dealing with non-aggressive animals humanely.
Deputy Jerrod Dooley shot the Middleton family dog, Candy, in the head after responding to a burglary at their home. Dooley originally defended his actions, saying he didn't want to be bitten, but a necropsy report shows the dog was shot in the back of the head and was actually retreating when he fired his weapon.
The Middletons say their beloved dog was just as important to them as any other member of their family, and they not only want to see Dooley charged with animal cruelty, they also want to pass "Candy's Law," which they believe would ensure no other family has to go through something like this ever again.
After Candy's death, messages began pouring in to the Middletons on social media.
"The prayers and the phone calls and messages we've received -- it's just all so heartwarming in a pretty devastating time in our lives," Cole Middleton said.
That's when they realized they weren't alone -- people across the globe were reaching out with similar stories.
"We saw that there's really a lack of understanding by our police officers of animals, especially, that have dogs," Middleton said.
So they decided to create "Justice for Candy Middleton" -- a Facebook page dedicated to their furry family member, who they say was unfairly killed.
"I wouldn't wish this on my worst enemy, what's happened to me and my family, because it is so hard to deal with," Middleton said, "and we just don't want it to happen to anybody else."
The page started as a way for the Middletons to tell their story, and to their surprise, has since reached nearly 2 million people and has gotten more than 30,000 'likes' -- something they they hope will lead to a solution.
"There really needs to be something done to deal with this problem," Middleton said. "People love their animals, they love their dogs -- they're members of their family."
The family has been in touch with the Humane Society of Texas in hopes of finding a lawmaker willing to create legislation requiring law enforcement officers to complete special training, and to carry a taser or pepper spray, saying bullets shouldn't be an officer's only option when it comes to dealing with animals.
"When he encounters anything, his only way to deal with it is deadly force? That's scary," Middleton said.
Deputy Dooley has been fired for the shooting and the Rains County Sheriff's Office is investigating. So far, no charges have been filed, but the sheriff says his office is reviewing its policies to avoid a situation like this in the future.
Middleton says his family hasn't been offered any type of compensation, although he admits that no amount of money would take away the pain they're going through.
The Middletons have contact information for Texas lawmakers and DPS officials on their Facebook page, www.facebook.com/JusticeforCandyMiddleton.