Man convicted of animal cruelty in Idaho supports campaign for tougher penalties

A man accused of killing his friend’s dog in North Idaho, who went on the run in Washington, faced a Kootenai County judge Thursday.

Austin Mattot, convicted of animal cruelty and harassment, received a four month sentence. The courtroom was divided with the dog’s owner and friends on one side pushing for stricter animal cruelty laws – the other side – still convinced Matott is innocent.

Dakota Goin said she didn’t just lose her dog Hank – she also lost some close friends in her fight to toughen Idaho’s animal cruelty laws.

“I would have favored, in my opinion, a harsher sentence but I’m glad that [Matott] at least got some punishment for his crime,” Goin said.

Matott was watching Goin’s dog, Hank, in July 2017 when the dog suffered serious injuries – it died hours later at a Spokane Valley vet.

“I understand that I was convicted, I feel that I was absolutely wrongly convicted,” Matott told KXLY in a jail house interview. Matott said he’s received close to 200 death threats since news of the dog’s death broke.

“People wanting to kill me, hoping that I get killed in jail, hoping that I get raped in jail,” Matott said.

Matott insists Hank was playing fetch when he jumped off a small porch at Goin’s home and knocked over a large 4×4 post. Matott said it landed on top of the dog, causing the injuries. But Goin and her mom didn’t buy the claim, and neither did a vet at WSU. A necropsy revealed the dog suffered brain injuries, broken ribs, and a ruptured liver, among other things.

“If I was on the flip side of things and saw that news article pop up, I would have been pretty upset about it, too,” Matott said. “I love animals. I have grown up with animals my entire life.”

Matott skipped his initial sentencing and fled to Washington where he was arrested. He said he was scared of losing the life he had and said it was a cowardly mistake.

Goin and her mother are determined to change Idaho’s animal cruelty laws – to mirror other states like Washington where offenders get felonies and up to 5 years in prison. People convicted in Idaho face up to one year in jail, and the offense is only a misdemeanor. Matott will serve a total of four months and is eligible for a work release in mid November – he would still have to return to Kootenai County Jail at night.

While Matott insists he’s innocent, he apologized to Goin in court.

“I felt like it was my fault because he was in my care when the initial incident happened,” Matott said. He also supports the Hank’s Law campaign.

Matott said, “I believe that animal cruelty should be a felony. I just wish the state and this family wasn’t using me and my character as their catalyst to make that happen.”

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