Sheriff: Two puppies severely burned in cruelty case

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Updated: 4/30/2013 11:26 am
PRENTISS COUNTY, Miss. (WTVA) -- Cocoa and Smokey are now three months old; for the last three weeks, they have grown up in a Baldwyn animal hospital.

They're in good spirits now despite the ordeal both went through in early April.

"My mom called me home, and she told me to check on Smokey. They thought that a dog got his leg. When I came home, I called them out of the doghouse, and it was horrific," owner Hollie Whitson said.

Prentiss County deputies later confirmed that hot grease had been poured all over the two puppies.

After realizing the owners couldn't treat the injuries at home, they brought the puppies to Nelson Animal Hospital in Baldwyn, where they've been receiving round-the-clock care since the encounter.

"Their skin was peeling off. It was so horrible, God, it was so horrible," Whitson said.

The injuries proved so severe, in fact, that the owners considered euthanizing the animals. The clinic's veterinarian said that wouldn't be necessary.

"Anna told us that, no, the puppies didn't need to be put down. They could get better and would get better," owner Wanda Jeter said. "It would just take time, a long time."

Prentiss County Sheriff Randy Tolar says though the case is still under investigation, there's not a lot the owners can do, and state laws are partially to blame.

"The charge of animal cruelty in Mississippi concerning dogs is a misdemeanor crime. It's not a felony. It's not something that we can build a case and present to a grand jury and get an indictment on," Tolar said. "In some states, it is a felony crime."

Tolar also questions the distinction in the law; not all animal cruelty cases are misdemeanors. For example, any that involve livestock are considered felonies in Mississippi.

That distinction makes it harder to prove their case.

Tolar explains there were no witnesses to the crime, though the pets' owners have their suspicions.

"We don't know if the puppies went to [a neighbor's] yard, or if he came over here. We don't really know what happened," Whitson said.

That's hearsay, the sheriff says, which makes it harder to prove.

"It's very difficult for a judge to make a decision based on what one person -- as opposed to another person -- is telling them," Tolar said.
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