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Anger Remains Over Wilson Dog-Abuse Case

A committee appointed by Wilson County commissioners says a dog abuse case is not a criminal matter, but animal advocates still want change

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WILSON, N.C. — A controversial dog abuse case in Wilson County prompted more questions for commissioners Tuesday night.

An investigative committee determined it is not a criminal case, but members of the community say they'll still push for change.

The issue began in October with 38 hunting dogs that animal advocates said appeared malnourished.

The Wilson County Humane Society was outraged, and the furor grew when Animal Control did not charge the owner, Michael Godwin, with animal cruelty.

More than three months later, the case is still causing unrest.
“I was sure that nobody could look at this case and not see that it was a case of neglect,” said Hope Carmichael, Humane Society president.

A tense back-and-forth erupted Tuesday night when an investigative committee that the county commissioners assigned to look into the handling of the case announced there were no grounds for a criminal case.

“If there was a chance of charging the man with animal cruelty, it would’ve been done,” said Robert Reder, a member of the United States Humane Society and member of the committee.

The committee, which also included an attorney and veterinarian, determined there was no intent to starve the dogs. The owner was sick and turned over care to a relative, they said.However, the committee did find problems with Animal Control, saying it didn't handle a September complaint about the dogs appropriately.

“Let’s take this energy. Don’t leave here and forget about Animal Control. Move it forward,” said Reder.

Members of the audience agreed that they won't soon forget.

“I hope this is a wake-up call for the citizens of Wilson County,” Carmichael said to a standing ovation. “Don’t put up with it,” she added.

The committee recommended putting a letter of reprimand in the Animal Control supervisor’s file. Plus there’s talk of having outside experts review the entire Animal Control operation.