Part two of “It’s a dog’s life” — Remember Roscoe?

Published 1:49 pm Tuesday, September 22, 2009

Part 1 of “It’s a dog’s life” appeared in Sunday’s Item and concerned the trials of Clarysa and Jacqueline, who are struggling right now with problems, are down on their luck, and wound up in the Picayune Animal Shelter, which is itself having problems because of a dirth of funding.

Clarysa has found a home, but Jacqueline might be euthanized if someone doesn’t offer her a home. She has a broken leg.

Now for Part 2: Remember Roscoe, the part pit-bull, who was rescued nearly dead from behind a closed gas station in McNeill and who was involved in one of the worst cases of animal cruelty ever seen around these parts, according to deputies, two supervisors who helped rescue Roscoe and animal shelter personnel who nursed Roscoe back to health?

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Now Roscoe has been returned to his original owner following the dismissal of charges against her.

However, back in July authorities found Roscoe and some puppies chained up around a camper trailer behind an abandoned gas station in McNeill. The puppies’ mother had already died, and one of the puppies also had died and was being eaten by Roscoe, who was trying to stay alive and was on his last leg, according to authorities familiar with the situation.

The other puppies were also in horrible condition. Animal shelter authorities euthanized the puppies, who had little chance of survival, and then turned their attention toward saving Roscoe.

Authorities arrested Alicia M. Goynes and charged her with seven counts of animal abuse. She told authorities she had been on vacation and had left the animals in the care of an overseer, who evidently had not done his job. She told authorities she was as shocked as they were to find the dogs in such terrible condition.

The case came to trial in Justice Court in August, and the charges were dismissed with prejudice because Goynes was charged under a state statute that in 2001 was found to be unconstitutional by the State Supreme Court.

The judge also ordered the animal shelter to return Roscoe to Goynes, and all bills associated with nursing Roscoe back to health was ordered to be paid by the sheriff’s department.

The orders concerning the case were signed by Justice Court Judge James H. Breland. “Dismissed with prejudice” means the charges cannot be refiled.

The episode, when it occurred in July, caused all kinds of problems. The part-time animal control officer said he did not have the authority to do anything in the case because he was not a law enforcement officer.

A sheriff’s deputy working the case was not sure about what to do in the case. The local Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals President Maria Diamond contacted two supervisors, Sandy Kane Smith and Hudson Holliday, who worked all day to get a warrant in the case so the dogs could be picked up.

The result of the incident, besides the arrest of Goynes, shed light on how ill-prepared the county was in answering complaints about animals. Smith at the time said he would push for a full-time animal control officer with the legal power to write citations and handle cases properly.

He said at the time that Sheriff David Allison had asked for appointment of a full-time animal control officer since dog and cat problems were consuming too much of his deputies’ time, such as the all-day marathon in resolving the McNeill incident.

The money for a full-time animal control officer, $68,000, was included in next year’s fiscal 2009-10 budget, but supervisors cut the animal shelter, 1700 Palestine Road, Picayune, by $11,000 to $40,000 as compared to this year’s $51,000 budget.

County Administrator Adrian Lumpkin said that the county still plans to use the shelter in Picayune. SPCA officials, who run the shelter under contract to the county and City of Picayune, said during a meeting last week that they plan to either cut back on the terms of the county contract, or charge a fee to county residents who use the facility. Lumpkin said the county was not planning on establishing a shelter, only in hiring a full-time animal control officer.

Not only is the shelter facing a cut in the county appropriation, it is also facing large drop-offs in donations and funds generated by a recycling operation run by the shelter through the collection of aluminum cans.

“One wonders whether the county would have ever funded a full-time animal control officer if the incident with Roscoe had not occurred,” said Diamond.

Judy Wheaton, a vice-president with SPCA, kept Roscoe for about four weeks during his rehabilitation. He gained about 25 pounds during his short stay at the animal shelter, and she grew attached to him.

Wheaton also agreed to continue to keep Roscoe if Goynes did not want the dog. “But she seemed to want Roscoe, so I had no choice but to obey the court order,” said Wheaton.

“But we always wondered: Whatever happened to Roscoe, who shined a light on a situation that needed fixing in Pearl River County?” said Diamond.

An unsuccessful attempt was made to contact Goynes.

“He touched the hearts of everyone at the animal shelter, and we hope he is doing okay,” Diamond said.