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Animal Neglect Case Could Bring Changes In County

A Yalobusha man faces charges for dog abuse after his husky had allegedly been tethered without shelter in the inclement weather for almost two months. The circle of mud shows the range of the chain. The dog was seized by the Yalobusha County Sheriff’s Department and is in custody of the Second Chance Animal Alliance. – Photo Provided

By David Howell

WATER VALLEY – County officials could partner with a new animal welfare organization to provide temporary housing for abused or neglected animals seized by the sheriff’s department after an animal neglect case last weekend brought attention to the matter.

            Members of Second Chance Animal Alliance (SCAA) agreed to foster a dog seized from County Road 110 Saturday night following an investigation by the sheriff’s department that revealed the pet had allegedly been tethered to a pole with no shelter for almost two months during the brutal winter weather. The dog’s owner, David DeHetre, II, was charged with misdemeanor animal cruelty in the incident.

            DeHetre was arrested Saturday night and posted a $1,000 bail. The dog is under vet care at the expense of the SCAA.

            The matter surfaced in Monday’s recessed Board of Supervisor meeting after District 3 Supervisor Lee McMinn shared details of the incident and reported on the legwork undertaken by the sheriff’s department and members of SCAA to get relief for the dog.

            “What I thought might be a simple, quick fix turned out to be an all-day and into-the-night affair,” McMinn told county officials. He said the entire process took almost nine hours, with Sheriff Lance Humphreys working on it continually; a trip by Justice Court Judge Steve Riley to the sheriff’s department to sign the seizure papers; and the ladies with SCAA assisting deputies with the seizure and subsequent placement of the dog.

            McMinn said deputies initially tracked down the owner, who defended the pet’s living conditions and argued it had adequate care.

            “He was not interested in giving the dog up,” McMinn added. “This was a new thing for everybody involved. Lance (Hum-phreys) spent a lot of time on it, he did a lot of research. I would like to commend him for his efforts,” McMinn added. “This is as bad as anything I had ever seen. This dog was tethered at this house for at least 58 days.”

            “The fellow that owns it should be tied with that chain and left out there in the mud,” District 5 Supervisor Frank “Bubba” Tillman said, a sentiment also shared by Board President Tommy Vaughn later in the meeting as the pictures of the neglected animal were passed around the table.

            “My question to the board, is in an extreme situation like this is there anything we can do as a county to streamline the process?” McMinn asked.


Sheriff’s Input

            Humphreys then relayed the pet owner’s version of the story, explaining DeHetre said the dog had access to shelter inside an adjacent shed.

            The problem with that story, the sheriff explained Monday, was a picture taken 58 days earlier showing the dog tethered at the same spot without shelter. Another pictured showed the dog at the same spot during the recent ice and snow.

            Humphreys also said his department had previously used Doll Stanley with In Defense of Animals (IDA) to assist with neglected or abused animals. Humphreys said his department needed a better option, citing previous problems with IDA.

            “Before I didn’t have a place to put a dog. Now we have this new group, I think things will work a lot better. We have somebody that can actually foster the dogs,” Humphreys continued.


Next Steps

            “Now we have a group out of Water Valley that are spending their own time, I would have to be in favor of helping to fund them,” Vaughn said, adding that it would be a worthwhile investment of the taxpayers’ money to help take care of the problem.

            Board Attorney John Crow agreed to research the state law and legalities of helping fund SCAA and report his findings in April.

            “Any action of the board would have to be consistent and not against state law,” Crow advised. “If the animal is seized, the owner has statutory, constitutional rights,” Crow added.


State Law

            Humphreys also stressed to supervisors that it is important to educate the public on steps his department must take before an animal can be seized or charges filed.

            Citing an earlier incident the previous winter on County Road 220, Hum-phreys explained his department had been criticized after receiving a complaint about a dog that was staked, but had food, water and shelter.

            “Nobody liked the way it was done, but there was nothing I could do about it. Just because the general public doesn’t agree with it doesn’t mean I can go out there and just take the dog,” Humphreys said Monday.

            Citing the state’s “Mississippi Dog and Cat Protection Law of 2011 (27-41-16),” the sheriff said the threshold for abuse or neglect comes if a pet owner intentionally or with criminal negligence deprives a dog or cat of adequate shelter, food or water, or carries or confines the dog or cat in a cruel manner.

            This simple cruelty offense is a misdemeanor and carries a fine of not more than $1,000 and jail time of up to six months, or both.

            The state’s dog and cat protection law also has a provision for aggravated cruelty, which is to intentionally torture, mutilate, main, burn, starve or disfigure a domesticated dog or cat. This offense is also a misdemeanor and carries a fine of up to $2,500 and imprisonment of up to six months or both for the first offense. A second or subsequent offense of aggravated cruelty within five years is a felony and carries a fine of up to $5,000 and imprisonment of not less than one year and no more than five years.

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