CENTRAL ISLIP, N.Y. (CBSNewYork) – A couple is fighting for justice for their beloved pet.

Their dog Rex was killed by a neighbor.

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Animal advocates converged on court Thursday morning wearing “Justice for Rex” t-shirts and chanting. They’re trying to change animal cruelty laws after a dog named Rex was killed by another dog owner.

Rex was a 3-year-old pit bull that was killed in July. His owners say Rex was on a leash and not aggressive and was the victim in a scuffle between neighborhood dogs. The owner of one of those other dogs killed Rex with his bare hands.

Huynh Toquoc was in court Thursday facing misdemeanor charges of animal cruelty. The crowd is pushing for charges to upgraded to a felony. They say this is not a case of self-defense but of bias against pit bulls.

“Crimes against animals must be taken seriously. And that’s what we all want. We can’t treat animal cruelty as not a significant crime. So I want to thank everyone here today. We want justice for Rex, we want justice for all animals,” said attorney Nora Constance Marino.

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Dominic Primerano and Elana (Credit: CBS2)

“There was no reason for him to brutally kill our dog with his hands,” said Rex’s owner Elana Greenfield.

“We will never get our best friend back. We raised that dog to be a great, loving dog. Kids loved him,” said owner Dominic Primerano.

There was no comment from Toquoc as he left court. His attorney said in court he was protecting his dog from Rex, but witnesses say his dog wasn’t even outside when he killed Rex.

A petition to change animal cruelty laws due to this case has more than 270,000 signatures.

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CBS2’s Carolyn Gusoff reached out to the Suffolk District Attorney’s Office to ask if they are considering upgraded charges in the case.