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|Shelter case goes to grand jury|
Findings in a criminal investigation into the city of Winnsboro over the treatment of dogs at the city animal shelter will be turned over to a grand jury to be convened on Sept. 15, the Franklin Parish District Attorney's Office confirmed Monday.
The DA's office received a report from the Louisiana State Police in July after an investigation arose, stemming from allegations that dogs at city holding pens off Robinson Road were kept in conditions that violated state law on how animals should be kept in shelters.
Franklin Parish Assistant District Attorney Johnny Boothe said after receiving the report that no charges would be brought at the time, but the matter would be reviewed to see if it warranted being handed over to a grand jury.
State police began to look into the matter after being requested to do so by the Franklin Parish Sheriff's Office.
FPSO made the request after receiving a letter from Humane Society of Louisiana Executive Director Jeff Dorson asking Sheriff Steve Pylant to initiate a formal investigation into the shelter.
Dorson said on Monday that he would continue to follow the case to see what, if any, indictments would be brought.
"We are pleased that the district attorney is taking this matter seriously. The evidence points to criminal malfeasance, so it's good that the grand jury will hear the evidence," said Dorson.
The case has sparked controversy and public outcry since a small group of dogs at the facility were discovered to have been left unattended during the last weekend of March, as reported in the March 31 issue of The Franklin Sun in a story titled "Barbaric conditions at shelter."
A trip to the shelter by Franklin Sun reporters revealed the animals, kept in outdoor pens, were without food and water and apparently had been eating the carcass of a dog. Half of a dog carcass was found in one pen, which housed four other animals. The pen was filled with feces.
The state's anti-cruelty statutes carry a possible penalty of a $1,000 and six months in imprisonment or both for a conviction of simple animal cruelty, which includes locking up animals without food, water or supervision.
The animal shelter is operated by the Winnsboro Police Department.
Winnsboro Councilman John Dumas, who served as interim-mayor during the investigation said he was glad that the case was being brought to a grand jury so the matter could be put to rest.
"If this is what it takes to vindicate ourselves, I am happy that it will happen. I hated that any of this had to happen, but I'm glad that we get a chance to clear this up," Dumas said.
The Winnsboro City Council approved a plan to purchase a state-of-the-art animal shelter for $14,000 during the Aug. 16 regular meeting. The facility would be placed in Winnsboro Industrial Park.