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Man accused of animal cruelty says he wants to be taxidermist

Posted January 8, 2009
Updated March 9, 2009

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— A Fremont man facing three misdemeanor animal-cruelty charges said that he is studying taxidermy and that the allegations cost him his job.

Wayne County sheriff's deputies arrested Lawton McKenzie, 28, of Old Black Creek Road, Tuesday after animal control officers said they found the remains of several dozen animals in house Dec. 3.

Among the items found at the home was what appeared to be a puppy's head in a plastic bag, authorities said. McKenzie said the animal was already decapitated when he found it on the side of the road.

Lawton McKenzie Man accused of animal cruelty denies claims

McKenzie denied killing any animals and said he is an animal lover.

Last fall, McKenzie said he began picking up the carcasses of animals – including deer, turtles and owls – killed by vehicles, hunters or natural causes. He uses guides to taxidermy and pioneers' survival techniques to teach himself. He often turns polished animal bones into ornaments.

McKenzie said he doesn't see the difference between collecting dumped carcasses from the side of the road and killing and shooting animals while hunting.

“All of the animals … being left on the side of the road or left in the middle of the road, why don’t we do something with that? It could be used as a learning tool,” McKenzie told WRAL News on Thursday.

McKenzie said it bothered him to see the bodies of dead animals on the side of the road.

"The animals are dead. People don't have any regards for the animals. Let it be a human being and you keep rolling over it," he said.

He keeps some animal parts, such as a turtles' shells, to polish and use as household decorations, McKenzie said. He raises goats, turkeys and chickens and slaughters them himself for food. He also breeds dogs to sell.

Investigators removed 26 living animals from the house, including a dying goat, officials said. It was rushed to a local veterinarian's office and survived.

McKenzie told WRAL News that when he is done with a carcass he burns the remains. He said he is no different than a farmer or a hunter.

After news of the allegations broke, McKenzie said he was let go from his job at  Sunshine Rest Home in Fremont. He also operates his own lawn-maintenance business, Handy Man's Handy Man.

He said he can understand why a modern society might view this as bizarre. "They don't even know where their eggs come from," he said. "They think it's cloned eggs. Where does your chicken come from? Where does your beef come from?"

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  • familyfour Jan 9, 2009

    Looks like, quacks like, waddles like = duck

    If he loves animals so much.....then why the dying goat and gross leftovers....I've been in a taxidermists shop before.....maybe it's a "different" kind of taxidermist :)

  • clover1019 Jan 9, 2009

    gdsb- you are right i have witnessed those acts near my parents house. they live in Belews creek out in the "sticks" and hunters think that no one out there notices. I see where they hunt and go dump cheap perfume and hair clippings from salons around there. when they are parked there i blow my horn and yell loudly. now back to this story at hand...wonder why this sicko never showed one of the animals he successfully performed a taxidermy on. Justin T. Love your idea of the tracking bracelet. I hope he has contracted some awful disease because i know the system wont give him the punishment he deserves.

  • Mr. Middle of the Road Jan 9, 2009

    braddyg, I grew up in southern West Virginia. I hunted plenty and knew plenty of hunters. A lot of real hunters who had to hunt to eat. People who if they didn't make the shot would have to go without meat. Do you hunt with a lot of people like that?

  • ContinuityMan Jan 9, 2009

    A taxidermist, like Norman Bates? "MOTHER! What have you done!?"

  • batcave Jan 9, 2009

    . And I bet you still spend more hunting deer than you would just buying meat over the counter.

    You have truly shown your hand you know jack about hunting, it's not all about filling a game tag, again , what difference does it make how much money I spend hunting vs buying meat at the store. I play golf ok. so it would be cheaper for me to play putt putt but, it's really not quite the same I do for myself what you choose to have the grocery do for you, maybe you don't want to know where your meat really comes from.

  • gdsb Jan 9, 2009

    BTW:yes,the cow/mule(or horse) is still alive when they push it in the "kennel"

  • braddyg Jan 9, 2009

    "Sorry dog, but you are wrong. You may be one of the exceptions. And I bet you still spend more hunting deer than you would just buying meat over the counter. And Ibet you end up throwing out half what you kill."

    And just how do you know that dog is wrong? Correct me if I'm wrong, but you don't seem like the type that would know many hunters personally. I do, and I've eaten venison prepared just about every way it can possibly be prepared - know why? Because they eat what they kill.

  • gdsb Jan 9, 2009

    We have rescued dogs for over 48 years.NC is a state (one of 5 left) that still gasses pound animals to death(horrid implosion/slow-NOT a fast go-to-sleep:some are still buried alive in landfills).We know of several hunt clubs that actually have their own'gas chambers'to kill all the hunting dogs that do not want.It is all legal here in NC.As long as hunting is legal,we feel it is the law(do not agree,but respect the right).Why is it that a majority of some of the most abused,neglected dogs are hunting dogs(along w/bait dogs)?some people have 50 dogs+.We saw horrific video where they drag in an old cow/mule and let the hungry dogs at it.We will go to our graves hearing the cries/screams alone.There is no spay/neuter.Litter after litter.Run them loose.Then some combine dogs w/ATV.Hunting is now no longer "necessity" for food.For most,it has become a 'high'for killing,keg parties on wheels,cut the head/antlers off/leave the rest 'as is where is'+let the dogs 'hunt'their way home.Sad Fact

  • lydiacoffman Jan 9, 2009

    Some of you compare this man's alledged actions with hunting. A true hunter only kills what he will eat. Do you really think he was planning on eating a puppy? Also, the torture these animals alledgedaly endured are more from neglect. This man apparently does not respect these animals. I am not one to judge, nor do I believe everything the media says, but the evidence is pointing towards a man that is in need of some mental care. Just my 2 cents for whatever it is worth.

  • Justin T. Jan 9, 2009

    batcave - I'm sure you're right, there are some "weekend warriors" who don't eat what they kill.

    Just my 2 cents, though. I know maybe 30 avid hunters and they have me hooked up. They can't afford enough deep freezers for all the meat and have to give it away. Never, ever do they leave the kill on the ground... they say it attracts wild dogs and the like.

    I am currently trying to talk some of my friends into taking my extra deer meat (and I don't even hunt)! It's really good but you have to know how to prepare it.

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