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Lowndes Animal Cruelty Enforcement Questioned [SLIDE SHOW]


They're vulnerable, at our mercy and in some cases, don't get proper care.

Animal activists say there are plenty of pet neglect cases in Lowndes County.

But they also say their owners aren't being held accountable for it.

Richard Lasseter is a self-proclaimed animal lover.

He has his own pets and worries about the welfare of other ones.

At the beginning of this year, he joined a volunteer organization called "Prevention of Animal Cruelty" or PAC.

"I would see the animals, mostly dogs, chained in yards, no food no water and it became very conspicuous to me that they were being neglected or abused," Lasseter said.

Lasseter has taken it on himself to go to homes and investigate.

He's taken pictures documenting his trips and even fed some of the animals.

In one instance, he was punched by an angry dog owner.

And other times he's been threatened, including with a baseball bat.

Reporter: "Why risk your personal safety for this issue?"
Lasseter: "It's a passion. I don't like to see anything suffer."

Lasseter isn't alone.

Cliff McMaugh rescued this pit bull he calls Rambo.

He showed us year old scars on Rambo's neck from what he says was a barbed wire collar used by his previous owner.

While Rambo survived, another dog brought to the Lowndes County Animal Shelter did not.

A vet says it had multiple puncture wounds and was left on its side for days.

Both McMaugh and Lasseter say they've made dozens of referrals to Lowndes County Animal Control Officers about possible neglect cases.

"I drive in the neighborhoods and I go to these people and I try to tell them where these dogs are and they don't care," said McMaugh.

"That's the most frustrating part, we've seen some obvious abuse and neglect cases and nothing is done about it," said Lasseter.

"We have people who leave their animals chained outside without adequate food or water or housing which makes things very busy for our officers," said Lowndes County spokeswoman Paige Dukes.

While Lowndes County's animal control officers may be busy checking neglect cases, records obtained exclusively by Eyewitness New show they aren't writing many tickets for it.

Since January, 2012, case records show they've investigated three animal cruelty or neglect cases, including a recent one involving a horse.

Out of those three cases, one citation has been issued.

By comparison, in that same time frame, the nearby town of Quitman in Brooks County has made two arrests for animal cruelty.

Lowndes County, with a population of more than 114,000 people compared to Quitman's 4500 has made zero arrests.

"As soon as the evidence indicates it can be bumped up to law enforcement, than that information is transferred over and handled there," said Dukes.

Reporter: "How often does that happen do you think?"

Dukes: "Not often."

Records also show Lowndes County's four full-time animal control officers documented 27 different cases they worked since January, 2012, most of them for loose animals.

Over roughly that same time frame, Thomas County with its two animal control officers and about a third of Lowndes population took 50 cases to court and issued 90 citations.

"I do think the ordinances are adequate currently for the level of enforcement that our elected leaders have chosen here in Lowndes County," said Dukes.

"The problem we're having here, it seems that the animal control officers at this time, they have no real authority to do anything," Lasseter said.

Dukes tells us animal control officers do have the power to seize animals.

However, she says they can't go on private property to do it without a warrant from a judge.


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