Dogs returned to Watsons

Published 12:00 am Tuesday, December 21, 2004

A Columbiana man was acquitted of animal cruelty charges Friday after a judge determined the man’s unlicensed dog breeding operation did not meet the state’s definition of cruelty.

On Monday, following the two-day trial of Lonnie Watson, the judge told Watson and his wife, Joan, they would get their dogs back.

In October, a sheriff’s deputy served an arrest warrant for animal cruelty at Watson’s home.

Officers confiscated 181 dogs and delivered them to the Shelby County Humane Society, where they have been since.

However, the Humane Society has until Friday to return all but 50 of the dogs to Watson.

In a deal struck

Monday between District Judge Ron Jackson and the Watsons, the Humane Society will buy 50 dogs from the Watsons for $100 each.

Watson will decide which dogs he wants to sell.

The Humane Society wanted to buy all of the dogs, according to Shelby County animal control officer Donald Kendrick.

Despite the acquittal, Kendrick remains hopeful that the public can push for legislative changes regarding animal cruelty in the state.

&uot;Sometimes you lose the battle, but you end up winning the war,&uot; Kendrick said.

&uot;There’s a lot of attention being paid to this case.

&uot;We’re going to continue doing our jobs, responding to complaints. We’re going to keep pushing for legislation,&uot; he said.

The Watsons declined comment for this story.

During trial, three veterinarians testified on behalf of the Humane Society, reporting on the dogs’ health.

According to testimony, the dogs suffered a variety of infections and showed signs of neglect.

However, Jackson determined there was no intentional misconduct and that Watson had not deprived the dogs of necessary sustenance