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A victory for Animal Control in a small Georgia town.

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  • A victory for Animal Control in a small Georgia town.

    Big thanks to Judge Alderman and Doris Buckley for seeing this through to the end and getting a conviction. Maybe other Georgia counties will follow their lead.


    "White County News

    A White County man has been convicted of animal cruelty for starving a horse to death in July 2010.
    On Wednesday, June 1, a jury deliberated for only 15 minutes before finding Danny Joe Bagwell, 50, guilty of committing “willful neglect.”

    In Georgia, this is a misdemeanor carrying a maximum sentence of 12 months in jail.

    The case went to trial on Tuesday, May 31, in White County Superior Court. Following the jury's verdict, Judge Lynn Alderman sentenced Bagwell to eight months in jail and four months of probation.

    Bagwell must also perform 80 hours of community service, pay a $500 fine and reimburse the Georgia Equine Rescue League $84 for veterinary expenses.

    Prosecuting attorney Kevin Mitchell said Bagwell left his horse, Pedro, tied up between two trees near Wooten Road and failed to provide him with adequate food and water.

    Mitchell displayed dramatic photos of a severely emaciated Pedro, taken shortly before the horse's death on July 24, 2010.

    Local horse activists, after hearing reports of Pedro's poor condition, had visited the property that day and spoken to Bagwell.

    Doris Buckley, a member of Clarkesville-based Stamp Out Starvation of Horses, Inc., said because Bagwell did not seem interested in providing proper care, she called a veterinarian to come out to the site and examine Pedro.

    Rescuers told Bagwell they would return in the morning to pick up the horse, but by then Pedro was so weak that he died during the night.

    Animal neglect is

    difficult to prove

    Jeff Langley, district attorney for the Enotah Judicial Circuit, said the goal of his office was to prove Bagwell intentionally deprived the horse of food.

    “It's very difficult, because there are so many intervening factors the defendant can claim as evidence that it was not his fault,” Langley said.

    For example, Bagwell could argue that Pedro was wasting away not because of food deprivation but due to an illness such as cancer.

    “The testimony of the veterinarian, Rob Milligan, was very helpful,” Langley said. “He demonstrated that there was not an independent medical cause (of death).”

    Prosecutor Mitchell also collected testimony from several of Bagwell's neighbors, who said that they had seen Pedro tied to the trees for an extended period of time.

    Buckley testified that Pedro suffered rope burns as a result of being tied for so long. Langley said he considered using this as grounds for a charge of felony animal cruelty, which goes beyond neglect and alleges that the defendant deliberately inflicted injury.

    “We hoped we could find a way to charge (Bagwell) with a felony, but we didn't think we could be successful,” Langley said.

    In Georgia, animal cruelty cases rarely go to trial, he said, and even when they do, prosecutors seldom achieve a conviction.

    He said the Bagwell case could have implications that go beyond White County.

    “We wanted to make an example out of him, to show that there are consequences for this type of action,” Langley said. “Whether (the victim) is a human being or an animal, our job is to speak up for those who cannot speak for themselves.”

    Bagwell forbidden to own animals

    Judge Alderman ordered Bagwell to relinquish custody of his two dogs, and told him he will not be allowed to own any animals for the duration of his sentence.

    Bagwell has already begun serving his sentence in the White County jail. But Langley said after Bagwell is released, officials will be checking on him to make sure he is complying with the terms of the sentence.

    “We got a Fourth Amendment waiver, so law enforcement can search him or his property at any time,” Langley said.

    However, the court has no jurisdiction beyond 12 months. So after Bagwell completes his sentence, there is nothing to prevent him from owning animals again.

    Still, Doris Buckley believes the conviction is a victory for animal welfare in Georgia.

    She said she was particularly grateful for Mitchell's dedication in prosecuting the case.

    “I was so impressed with his performance in the courtroom,” she said.

    County responsible for animal welfare

    Buckley said she hopes local officials will be more likely to prosecute animal cruelty cases in the future.

    She said she was disappointed last August when she learned that White County Animal Control never sought to charge Bagwell with animal cruelty. Instead, the agency only cited him for “livestock running at large” when Pedro temporarily escaped from the rope.

    Buckley and another horse activist, Joan Sammond, then filed a request with Magistrate Court to issue a warrant for Bagwell's arrest.

    Magistrate Judge Corey Hyde signed the warrant Dec. 14. Bagwell was arraigned on Feb. 25, after Langley determined there was sufficient evidence to take the case to trial.

    While Buckley is pleased with the outcome, she believes Pedro might have been saved if local authorities had taken action when the horse's plight was first discovered last summer.

    She said Georgia law “clearly states the responsibilities of the county and that equine abuse cases need to be prosecuted and impounded at a local level.”

    Buckley said the tendency is for counties to refer such cases to the Georgia Department of Agriculture.

    “(But) the Department of Agriculture is only a regulatory agency. They cannot prosecute,” she said.

    The Georgia Humane Care for Equines Act says that county law enforcement (which can include Animal Control) is supposed to take charge of a horse's care when an abuse case is discovered.

    “Pedro died a slow and very painful death while being watched by Animal Control,” Buckley said. “This should never happen.”

    But prosecutor Mitchell said Animal Control officers were among those, along with the veterinarian and the rescue volunteers, who helped him compile evidence against Bagwell.

    “Several people worked very hard on this case, and I believe that made the difference,” Mitchell said."
    Sarchasm: The gulf between the author of sarcastic wit and the person who doesn't get it.

  • #2
    For Georgia, that IS a miracle. Thanks for sharing. It does give us hope!
    a 501(c)3 organization helping 501(c)3 equine rescues


    • #3
      That is terrific news.

      I'm sorry Pedro did not get help before it was too late.
      Brothers and sisters, I bid you beware
      Of giving your heart to a dog to tear.
      -Rudyard Kipling