Justice for "Hope"

On January 13, 2003, the Gautier City Court Judge found Tremena Miskel guilty of the offense of animal cruelty, including the Mississippi law that prohibits depriving a dog of necessary food or drink. He ordered her to pay the maximum fine of $1000, serve 10 days in jail, and pay restitution to the Gulf Coast Doberman Rescue in the amount of actual expenses (which Gulf Coast Doberman Rescue estimates to be about $1350); ordered her to forfeit ownership of the surviving dog (Hope) to Gulf Coast Doberman Rescue; and permanently enjoined her from owning or having custody of any animals in the City of Gautier in the future. The 10 days of jail time and $500 of the $1000 fine were suspended, conditional upon Ms. Miskel paying the fine in accordance with a payment schedule to be set up with the court and upon her committing no crimes of any sort during a probationary period of one year.

In delivering his ruling from the bench, Judge Gary Roberts noted that he had received about a 2 to 3-inch stack of faxes and numerous phone calls to his office and home from concerned individuals expressing their opinions about the case. The judge was careful to note that his paralegals and office staff, and not he, had actually read the correspondence and heard the phone calls, so that his objectivity in the case was not compromised. The prosecutor, attorney Robert Ramsey, indicated in private that he and city hall had both received about a 4-inch stack of faxes from concerned individuals. Ms. Lindsay Grissom, from Gulf Coast Doberman Rescue, reported that she had received phone calls from across the country, including Washington State, Oregon, and Florida -- and even Australia -- from individuals who reported they had faxed, phoned, and e-mailed the prosecutor, judge, mayor, and city manager.

In his opinion, Judge Roberts stated that very few animal cruelty cases are prosecuted in Gautier, and he was saddened by the evidence and pictures of animal cruelty in this case. He stated he wanted to carefully check the Mississippi statutes to make certain what his options were regarding sentencing and that he did the right thing in determining Ms. Miskel's sentence. During the case, Kim Capella-Gowland, Director of Gulf Coast Doberman Rescue, testified that, in her 13-plus years of experience in canine rescue, including the rescue of about 250 dogs, and 6 years of working in a veterinarian's office, this was the most severe case of starvation she had ever seen in a dog that was still in a living state. She testified that the condition of the surviving dog, Hope, resulted in her opinion from several months of extended lack of care. Animal Control Officer Guy Funk testified that in his opinion, the dog had been deprived of food and water for an extended time. Officer Funk identified pictures of the emaciated dog and the decayed dead dog that had been taken at the scene on the day he confiscated the dog. In contrast, Ms. Miskel testified that she had owned the surviving dog Hope since 1999 and had had custody and care of the dead dog for about a year before its death. She testified that she had noticed over Thanksgiving that the dead dog, whose decayed corpse was found on December 4, 2002, had died. She testified that the dog had stopped eating a few days before she noticed it was dead. Upon intense questioning from the judge, she admitted she thought it may have been poisoned but did not seek medical care for the dog. As to the surviving dog Hope, Ms. Miskel swore she had fed the dog everyday. She stated that on December 4, 2002, she went out to feed the dog some meat but found that Animal Control had confiscated it. She stated that on December 3rd, she gave Hope a pound of sausage. She testified she fed Hope dog food on December 2nd, and that she usually gave Hope ½ of a big pot of food everyday. As for the food bowl full of dirt, she testified that she never fed the dog from the bowl, but always put the food on the ground. She stated that Hope had before gone long periods without eating. Ms. Miskel introduced into evidence veterinarian records showing she had taken a dog named Mercedes (allegedly Hope's previous name) to a vet in a different city in 1999 and in March 2000. She stated that she had been unable to obtain records from her current vet since she had moved to the city of Gautier. Ms. Miskel was intensely questioned as to whether feeding a dog everyday could produce a dog as emaciated as Hope was shown to be in the pictures introduced into evidence. Ms. Miskel is a 7th grade special education teacher at Ed Mayo in Moss Point. She also works a second job at night.

   
   
   
   

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GCDR is a 501 (c) 3 non-profit organization operating in Louisiana and the Gulf Coast of Mississippi to rescue, rehabilitate and place unwanted Dobermans.

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P.O. Box 231051
New Orleans, LA 70183