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Story Archives: A pat on the back
|A pat on the back|
It's been a two-month wait to see what the Franklin Parish District Attorney's office would do with the Louisiana State Police's findings on the Winnsboro's animal shelter and the jury is still out.
The jury could be in, however—a grand jury—according to Franklin Parish Assistant District Attorney Johnny Boothe, but that's in question. Time will tell. More details can be found in the front page of this week's Sun.
In case you haven't been following the story, it all started in March when we at The Franklin Sun were alerted to mistreatment of dogs at the animal shelter off Robinson Road and went there so see what was going on.
What we found was that dogs kept in outdoor, dirty pens went for days without being fed or watered. Reduced to such a wretched state, the poor mongrels were eating each other.
After we reported this, the Humane Society of Louisiana got involved in the matter and a criminal investigation ensued in May.
Things soon began to change. The dogs started getting better supervision and better fed.
Automated watering systems were installed in the pens, which started to be cleaned more often.
Winnsboro's new mayor, Jackie Johnson—keeping his promise to Jeff Dorson, executive director of the Humane Society of Louisiana —unveiled a plan to purchase a state-of-the-art kennel to make up a new facility.
The kennel is equipped to house as many as 32 animals in climate controlled pens that partly open to the outside. It has an automated feeding and watering systems and a bin to catch waste that could be fashioned to empty into the city's sewage system.
With the short time dogs and cats are housed in Winnsboro —usually no more than a week—before being sent to Ouachita Parish and being put to sleep, you can't really expect Winnsboro to do much better than Johnson's plan.
On Monday, the Winnsboro City Council tabled the matter of alloting $14,000 to purchase the kennel until councilmen have the chance to delve into the matter more deeply.
Johnson would also like to create a new position for a full-time animal control officer called director of animal affairs.
It's a heady title and Johnson wants the position to pay $24,000 a year —not bad for a dog catcher job-face lift in a small Louisiana town.
Franklin Animal Rescue, a non-profit organization, has even formed to help the city adopt out stray cats and dogs.
Through that organization and others who have stepped up, many stray animals have found welcoming homes.
To do our part, the Franklin Sun started running the "Pal of the Week" feature, which gives a photo of a potential furry pal along with a short description and contact number.
Everything seems to be going doggone right as rain with the shelter saga except for one little thing—the law.
Louisiana law stipulates how animals are to be treated when a municipality picks them up for detainment.
Not feeding or watering them and forcing them to live in unsupervised filth is categorized under the law as simple animal cruelty and carries a possible penalty of a maximum $1,000 fine and six months in imprisonment or both.
A cynic might look at the fact that no one has been charged in the matter and think that there is one set of laws for those in positions of power and another set for the rest of us.
I have had officials tell me that things are better now, so we shouldn't worry about the law.
Try that one out on the next state trooper that pulls you over for speeding.
Since you have stopped your vehicle and promise not to speed again, tell him to ignore the fact that you were going 65 miles-per-hour in a 45 miles-per-hour zone.
I'm sure he will appreciate your candor as he writes you out a ticket or —if you continue to argue with him—slaps cuffs on you and hauls you to jail.
Granted, it is problematic to decide who should be held accountable for the despicable way dogs were treated before the matter was brought to light.
Should the hammer fall on Russell Grant, the animal control officer who is slated to get a raise as Winnsboro's new animal control officer?
Not really. Grant, who was only employed to work part-time can't really be blamed for not doing a job when he wasn't there to do it.
The animal shelter is operated by the police department, so his supervisors would be more to blame.
Should Sonny Dumas, who was serving as interim mayor when the story broke, bear the brunt of whatever penalty should be handed down?
That doesn't seem right since Dumas was only at the job a short time and, by all accounts, the problem had been going on for a while.
Wiser heads than mine will have to decide what should become of all this and, fortunately, there are wiser heads who are tasked with doing so.
For now, it might be enough for us to know that things are getting better because of you.
As a newspaper, The Franklin Sun can only report what we find. It's up to concerned readers to effect change.
An editorial that ran in this newspaper early on in this doggy drama ended with these words:
"How all this mess unfolds going forward—including how the public reacts to it and how the law enforcement community handles it—will tell us a great deal about the moral fiber of the people of Franklin Parish and beyond."
We might be still waiting on the law enforcement community, but those of you who have made your voices heard on this matter should take a repose and pat yourselves on the back. While you are at it, pat your dog.