This is in my county. I hope the man next door reads the paper. http://thenewsobserver.com/articles/2011/03/18/news/news01.txt Winston Cross not guilty of animal cruelty BY BRIAN K. FINNICUM, EDITOR Thursday, March 17, 2011 1:10 PM CDT A Mineral Bluff man who testified that he was protecting his livestock has been found not guilty of animal cruelty in Fannin County Superior Court. Winston Cross was acquitted of two counts of aggravated cruelty to animals in a day-and-a-half long trial without jury before Judge Amanda Mercier this week. The charges were based on the shooting of two dogs owned by neighbors of Cross, John Walker and Scott Hobson. Hobsons dog was killed and Walkers dog had to be euthanized because of the extent of its injury. During the trial, although Walker and Hobson both stated their dogs would not have harmed Cross livestock and poultry, testimony indicated both dogs had previously been trapped by Fannin County Animal Control on Cross property. The death of both dogs occurred in the spring of 2009. Hobsons dog was killed in late March, and Walkers dog was shot in late April of that year. Other witnesses in the trial included Dr. Jim McClearen, a cattle rancher and veterinarian, who testified that dog attacks are the most common threat to cattle, and such attacks occur most often in the spring during calving season. He said dogs attack cattle most often in corrals and at feeding stations, and that once dogs start attacking cattle, it is hard to break that cycle of behavior, which he said is natural for dogs. McClearen said that most dogs that attack livestock are owned dogs, not strays or wild, but that the pet owners are often not aware of their dogs behavior and are surprised by it. He said that it is the pet owners responsibility to keep his animals under control. McClearen also said that in connection with his small-animal veterinary practice, he sees a lot of gunshot wounds to dogs, and that about half of them are cattle related. Fannin County Animal Control Manager John Drullinger also testified, saying he had been to Cross property many times for dogs bothering his livestock, and that he receives quite a few other calls about dogs bothering cattle. Drullinger said Hobson was warned about letting his dog onto Cross property after the dog was trapped there, but that Hobsons dog was on Cross property when it was shot. Drullinger said he had also spoken to Walker previously about keeping his dog restrained, as well. Drullinger also stated that on a previous occasion, he had witnessed two light-colored dogs stalking Cross cattle along the fence line near where the dogs were trapped. Drullinger said the county animal control ordinance does require that dogs must be under restraint of some kind at all times. Cross attorney, R. Scott Kiker, said this case really involved suburban sprawl meeting agricultural environments, and that there will be clashes between those two uses. He said all of the testimony given during the trial showed that over half of the calls to animal control concerned encounters between dogs and livestock, and that there was a county ordinance that required pet owners to exercise reasonable care and take the steps necessary to protect other people and property from injury or damage from those pets. Pet owners need to be aware that Georgia Code section 16-12-4(b) allows a property owner to protect his property by injuring or killing an animal reasonably believed to constitute a threat for injury or damage to any property, livestock or poultry, Kiker said. The only thing proved beyond a reasonable doubt in this trial, Kiker said, was that had the dog owners abided by the ordinance and kept their dogs on their property, none of these events would have transpired. Assistant District Attorney Jodi Spiegel, who prosecuted the case, said it had moved forward after the county magistrate had found probable cause to issue a warrant against Cross, and the Fannin County grand jury had returned a true bill of indictment on the two counts of aggravated cruelty to animals. She said it was then the job of the district attorneys office to bring the case to trial. Spiegel said competing interests between neighboring pet owners and livestock farmers presents a unique challenge for the community. Judge Mercier was very diligent and open-minded. We respect her decision, Spiegel said, indicating there were no plans to appeal the decision.