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Charges in the Death of a Zionsville Tortoise

It's not animal cruelty, but the neighbor who shot him may have to pay a price.

ZIONSVILLE, Ind.--Destroying property without consent is how Brandt Lawson will be charged for shooting Tasha Chapel's pet tortoise in August. Since tortoises are not considered domestic animals, animal cruelty charges are not appropriate, said the sheriff.

Merlin, a tortoise that had been with the family for 12 years, was shot and killed when he wandered on to Lawson's farm Aug. 31. Lawson apologized through his attorney, claiming he believed it might be dangerous.

But Sheriff Mike Nielsen and deputies didn't buy it, and began an investigation into the shooting and into what charges could be applied.

“The Sheriff’s Office is committed to protecting lives of everyone, human or animal, domestic or non-domestic; if it is outside the confines of the state law," said Nielsen. 

"This is an unfortunate circumstance with Merlin, because he is not considered a domestic animal by state law. When we found out what occurred we immediately began an investigation with our Animal Control Liaison. Deputy Fisher, our Animal Control Liaison, reached out to many other agencies to see what could be done about this incident."

"This is just another example of why we have been working so hard for the last year on getting the proper county animal control ordinance in place as well as the funding for a full time Animal Control Officer.”

"I don't want him to have died in vain. There's got to be something bigger," said Chapel.


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