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Owner will face cruelty charges

A Pedro man faces a pre-trial conference in Ironton Municipal Court today after being charged last month with cruelty to animals.

Thursday, October 07, 1999

A Pedro man faces a pre-trial conference in Ironton Municipal Court today after being charged last month with cruelty to animals.

Lawrence County Humane Society humane agent Carla Beasley filed a complaint Sept. 3 alleging the second-degree misdemeanor charge against Homer Friend, 36, of Pedro.

The charge stemmed from an anonymous tip and an Aug. 29 investigation, Mrs. Beasley said.

When she arrived at the residence, Mrs. Beasley said she found a female golden retriever, now in Humane Society custody and named "Sunshine," had been injured by a chain used like a collar that had become embedded about two inches into the dog’s throat. A veterinarian removed the chain.

Sunshine is doing well and is getting offers of new homes from all over the United States, Mrs. Beasley said. When she first came to the shelter, however, Humane Society volunteers weren’t sure if she would survive the wound, Mrs. Beasley said.

Lawrence County Prosecutor J.B. Collier Jr.’s office is now handling the case in court.

Friend entered a not guilty plea at the arraignment and now lawyers will meet in today’s pre-trial conference to see if the issue can be resolved, Collier said.

"Our intention is to prosecute this vigorously," he said. "Our society recognizes that we don’t treat animals cruelly because they cannot protect themselves and it’s up to our office to get involved."

As part of the case, the prosecutor’s office will examine intentions of the dog’s owner and any alleged negligence, said assistant prosecutor Bob Anderson, who will represent the county in court.

If convicted of the misdemeanor cruelty charge, Friend could face a maximum penalty of 90 days in jail and a a maximum $750 fine, Anderson said.

Although not the only animal cruelty case prosecutors have handled this year, this one comes on the heels of a Humane Society request that county commissioners fund a special prosecutor for the society, as allowed under state law.

After discussions with county commissioners, who favored letting the prosecutor’s office handle the society’s court matters, Mrs. Beasley met with Collier.

"There are wonderful staffs at both places and I think it’s good that we are all working together," Mrs. Beasley said, adding that she has dropped the idea of a special prosecutor.

Collier said he has never been at odds with the Humane Society, but that there could have been some communication problems, which sometimes happen in the fast-paced court arena.

"In one of the discussions we had with the Humane Society, I indicated I am a dog lover and support animal rights," he said. "If I have a case, I will vigorously prosecute."

Some people might presume animal cases take second fiddle to other cases, and there must always be priorities when trying cases because of a lack of manpower, but animal cases are still taken seriously, Collier said.

"It’s something I do for the community and I have people that will get involved," he said.

At least one dog bite case this year ended with jail time for a person who sought retribution against the animal, he added.

"From my standpoint, we don’t treat these lightly," Collier said.

The society likely will keep the special prosecutor plans on hold and, in the meantime, urge state government officials to make breaking an animal cruelty law a felony charge, Mrs. Beasley said.

Humane societies across the nation are seeking similar legislation because a felony charge would better deter offenders with fine increases and the prospect of lifetime criminal record, she said.