One of the largest dog recoveries in recent memory is an unusual case, according to Lowndes County animal control officer Bobby Reeves.
Reeves, who works under the direction of the sheriff’s office, said 47-year-old Anthony Cochran, who was arrested on Feb. 17 for misdemeanor animal cruelty and failure to obey, is a repeat offender.
Cochran was arrested for having 12 dogs, many of which Reeves said were in poor condition, in a wooded area off of the 3400 block of Sand Road near Steens.
“Most were chained to trees and things,” he said. “Some were in some makeshift pens he had built. The majority was very (malnourished) — there was no food or water to be seen up there.
“I’ve been with the sheriff’s office for 17 years, and I’ve been doing animal control for 11 years,” Reeves later added. “This is the most dogs I’ve ever had to take at one time.”
Reeves said Cochran previously had a different set of dogs removed from his property because they weren’t properly cared for. At the time, Reeves said, Cochran indicated there wasn’t anyone there to tend to the dogs, so they were removed and sent to the Lowndes County Humane Society without Cochran facing criminal charges. While those dogs weren’t in great shape, Reeves said, they were in much better condition than the dozen taken from Cochran last month.
“We don’t really see repeat offenders,” Reeves said. “Most of the time we don’t have a problem with them again, whether it’s because they don’t get any more animals or they learned a lesson the first time.”
Cochran’s dogs are currently at the Humane Society shelter. Director Karen Johnwick said she couldn’t talk about those specific dogs, due to the pending case, but noted large rescue groups can put extra stress on the shelter.
“We have to hold them for a period of time, depending on court, which is typically a lot longer than normal,” She said. “We have to juggle room around to hold them. If they’re starved, we have to feed them more, and we might have to deworm them more. There’s a lot more effort to get them into shape.”
Johnwick said it can take a long time to bring a dog up to shape, mentally and physically, to being adoptable. How long that takes varies from dog to dog, and she said some dogs never bounce back to the point of being adoptable. She said some dogs may go to foster homes before adoption, to adapt to being around people and other animals.
Johnwick noted that big groups of dogs, such as Cochran’s , aren’t common for the shelter, which can house 100 dogs. She said the shelter may see one such group a year, though individual dogs arrive frequently.
It’s difficult to get a felony animal cruelty charge in Mississippi. Reeves said under state law, the only felony cruelty charge is for second offense aggravated cruelty.
“It’s really meant to justify maiming or something like that of an animal–dragging one behind a car, burning one, things like that,” he said.
On the other hand, misdemeanor cases of animal cruelty or neglect carries a maximum penalty of six months in jail and a $1,000 fine.
Reeves also noted that animal cruelty/neglect incidents, which make up about 35 percent of his calls, typically fall toward animal neglect. Those cases may stem from improper housing or not leaving out enough water for a dog in the summer. Most of those cases can be corrected with education, Reeves said. He said animal cruelty is typically rarer and more severe.
Another felony charge could have been in play for Cochran. One of the dogs, a female shepherd mix, was micro-chipped and Reeves said the owner had reported it as missing eight months prior to it being found on Cochran’s land. Dog theft is a felony in Mississippi, but Reeves said there wasn’t enough evidence to support pursuing a charge against Cochran.
“We can’t say for sure that he actually had stolen the dog,” Reeves said. “It was on the property. We were not, investigators were not, able to prove that he physically took that dog, so we weren’t able to charge with him a stolen dog charge.”
Alex Holloway was formerly a reporter with The Dispatch.
You can help your community
Quality, in-depth journalism is essential to a healthy community. The Dispatch brings you the most complete reporting and insightful commentary in the Golden Triangle, but we need your help to continue our efforts. Please consider subscribing to our website for only $2.30 per week to help support local journalism and our community.