Local News

Wilson Humane Society faults sheriff in animal cruelty case

Posted October 31, 2011 5:51 p.m. EDT
Updated October 31, 2011 7:26 p.m. EDT

— The welfare of several farm animals at the center of animal cruelty case in Wilson has the local humane society blaming the sheriff's office for a lack of response to community concerns about the animals' owner.

According to 911 documents, neighbors called the Wilson County Sheriff's Office to the home of Jonathan Whitley on Webb Lake Road eight times since January to investigate animal neglect concerns.

In two cases, animal control officers found carcasses on the property, but the owner was never charged and the property was never searched.

Ricky Webb, who owns a farm across the street from Whitley, says neighbors have been complaining about the crowded living conditions and emaciated animals on the property for years.

"That's pitiful. I hate to say it. That's what the owners need," Webb said. "They need to be shut in a pen without food or water for two or three days."

It wasn't until last week, that authorities seized two horses, a donkey and a goat and charged Whitley, 29, with animal cruelty and failing to dispose of dead animals.

But the Wilson County Humane Society's Anne Pression says the arrest comes a little too late and is indicative of a bigger issue with animal control.

"In Wilson County, this is not the first animal abuse case that we've had of this nature," she said. "There is a pattern of non-responsiveness, a pattern of apathy (in the sheriff's office). Nobody wants to do anything."

According to its website, the Humane Society received a call on Oct. 15 about a dead foal at Whitley's property and called 911. Three days later, while trying to meet Whitley at his home, the group called 911 again after noticing there was no drinking water or hay available for the animals.

At that point, authorities obtained a warrant and impounded the animals.

Sheriff Calvin Woodard, whose office oversees the county's animal enforcement division, said his deputies tried to contact Whitley in the past but that no one was ever home.

"All the other animals, of course, at that time, appeared healthy, and there was no way that they could state that those animals died of neglect," Woodard said.

The Humane Society has since started an online petition for local authorities to enforce animal control ordinances.

But Woodard disagrees with Pression's accusations.

"I believe in their fight," he said. "They should believe in our fight. We should be working together."