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Hinds County 09/22/06
Pit Bull Owner Found Guilty

By Cheryl Lasseter
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There was no response from 26-year-old Travis Williams as he left a Hinds County Justice Courtroom, digesting the guilty verdict handed down by Judge William Skinner. Williams was slapped with a 6-month suspended jail sentence and a $500 fine for possessing vicious animals.

His two pit bulls attacked Allen Kelly of Terry last year. Kelly, who was 66 at the time, was riding his bicycle along Springlake Circle in Terry on December 1 when the two pit bulls, Scooby Doo and Gabriel, pulled him off his bike and attacked him.

Today, Kelly says he still has a shoulder problem, but he's satisfied with the verdict and harbors no ill will toward the dog owner. Kelly even shook Williams' hand during the court proceedings. "He's a young kid learning about life," Kelly says. "Some things he has to account for. Overall he's a nice kid."

Kelly spent two days in the hospital and three months in therapy recovering from his injuries. Right after the attack, the Hinds County Sheriff's Department ordered the two dogs be held at the Mississippi Animal Rescue League. In February, Gabriel mysteriously disappeared. A Hinds County detective says a MARL employee was to be given a polygraph, but that employee disappeared, and the dog was never found.

In the courtroom, Williams' attorney, Joanie Potter, said she believed MARL secretly euthanized Gabriel. "They didn't say it, they won't admit it," Potter said outside the courtroom after the proceedings. "We don't know what happened to the dog, honestly."

The Rescue League denies that claim. "Certainly we euthanize dogs, but we would never euthanize an animal on a bite, quarantine or hold case," says Deborah Boswell, MARL Director. "The animal was in our facility when we closed, when we came back the next morning it was not in our facility."

Scooby Doo will be put to sleep by court order in within the next ten days. Williams will also have to pay MARL $2,500 for the time and money spent boarding the animals.

Kelly, who is now 67, is hoping a dog ordinance with sharper teeth will soon emerge in Hinds County. "Vicious animals cannot be allowed to roam the streets attacking women, children, old fellas like myself," he says. We need to do something, and I think Judge Skinner did his job very well."

Right now, Hinds County has a leash law. The Board of Supervisors says there's nothing concerning a stronger ordinance or a vicious dog ban under consideration at the present time. This summer, the City of Jackson passed an ordinance that requires all dogs considered "dangerous" to be safely confined. It is not a breed-specific ordinance.

The City of Clinton recently passed a breed-specific ban on vicious dogs. The cities of Brandon and Richland have enacted bans on pit bulls.

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