Why Do You Hate Me So?

June 12, 2012

Caledonia, Crime, News, Pets

Controversy Surrounds Caledonia Pit Bull Issue

In the May 30th edition of The Real Story, we reported that ten “emaciated” pit bulldogs were seized from private property located at 63 Freeman Road, in Caledonia, on the evening of Monday, May 21st. Some disturbing facts have come to light, since the original story was published.

We have learned that the dogs were not seized; they were surrendered by the owner. The owner alleges that he surrendered the dogs under threat of massive fines and fees, if the dogs had to be seized, as opposed to them being “voluntarily” surrendered.
In a conversation that Marc Miley, chief deputy for the Lowndes County Sheriff’s Office had with The Real Story on Jun 4, 2012, Miley denied that anyone from the sheriff’s department any such statements to Mr. Baird.

It has now come to light that all ten of the dogs that Mr. Baird “surrendered” were euthanized. Additionally, Mr. Baird was cited with one count of cruelty to animals. However, this is where the details of this situation become murky, at best.

The Real Story spoke with Karen Johnwick, Executive Director of the Columbus Lowndes Humane Society, on Friday, June 1, in regards to the situation. It was the Humane Society which actually euthanized the dogs.

When asked when the dogs had been put down, Johnwick was not able to specify whether it was done on Wednesday (May 23rd) or Thursday (May 24th).

As a matter of fact, Johnwick was quite tight-lipped about the entire situation, stating that the Animal Control Division of the Lowndes County Sheriff’s Office had requested that they (the Humane Society) not discuss the situation publicly. She referred all further questions to Animal Control. Chief Deputy Miley denies that anyone from the Sheriff’s Office (under whose jurisdiction Animal Control falls) asked Karen Johnwick (Columbus Lowndes Humane Society Executive Director) or the CLHS to refrain from discussing the matter, other than perhaps during the investigation. However, the investigation had already been closed, prior to Johnwick’s refusal to elaborate on the matter.

The Real Story spoke with Bobby Reeves, Animal Control Officer for the Sheriff’s Office, who confirmed that his office had asked the Humane Society not to discuss the situation. When asked why his office had made that request, Reeves indicated that he could not discuss the reason. Reeves did, however, confirm that there is no open investigation, in regards to animal cruelty, at this time.

Reeves went on to say that the dogs had been euthanized for two reasons: 1. they were “dog-aggressive”; and 2. The Humane Society has a policy of declining to adopt out pit bulls.

When he was asked who made the determination that the animals were “dog-aggressive”, Reeves said that he had made that determination, based on the fact that the dogs tried to attack each other when he attempted to place them together into one of enclosures on the Animal Control vehicle. He stated that other Sheriff’s Office
representatives, who were on-scene, on the evening of the 21st, witnessed the aggressive behavior, as well.

Reeves stated that he had found no evidence that the dogs had been trained to or had been subjected to dog fighting.

Johnwick confirmed that the Humane Society has a policy of refusing to place pit bulls up for adoption, citing the breed’s aggressive behavior and the potential liability risk to the Human Society as reasons for the policy.

When Johnwick was questioned about a posting on the organization’s Facebook page, which promoted the availability of Theodis, a young pit bull, for adoption, which was discovered on Thursday, June 2nd, Johnwick stated that this was “a rare exception to the policy.” A screenshot of the Facebook post accompanies this article.

Johnwick was also asked if the Humane Society had contacted any pit bull rescue organizations, to see if they could take the dogs. She replied that they had not contacted any such groups, that she only knew of two such groups within a reasonably close distance from Columbus, and that these groups had always told her that they were at capacity, when contacted in the past.

Johnwick also indicated that the dogs were put down because they were “in bad shape”, a factor not mentioned by Reeves. When asked to elaborate, Johnwick declined, once again referring to Animal Control’s request that they not discuss the matter. In response to a request to speak with the Humane Society’s staff veterinarian, Johnwick that the vet had left for the day. She then asked “Why do you want to speak with her?”, and was told it was to obtain specifics on the animals’ physical condition, to verify that they were indeed, in “bad shape”. In speaking with Chief Deputy Miley on June 4th, he did attest to the fact that the dogs were in bad shape.

There is obviously more to this story than meets the eye, and what we have learned only leads to more questions. At this point, the matter has devolved into a “he said/she said” type of situation, with no clear answers.

We hope to be able to provide more information, in a subsequent edition of The Real Story.

The Real Story Staff Report 

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The Real Story for the Golden Triangle and North Mississippi. Always the truth... No Compromise. Changing the community one story at a time! You make the news... We keep it Real.

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