Monday, January 25, 2010

Mississippi Animal Control Officer Fired For Animal Deaths

Grenada, Mississippi (January 6, 2010) - On behalf of In Defense of Animals, an animal-protection organization with over 85,000 members, Debbie Young, a volunteer at IDA’s Project Hope Sanctuary in Grenada, Mississippi, is filing an affidavit for each animal shot to death by Canton and Madison County, Mississippi, animal control officer, Alonzo Esco. On Tuesday, January 5, the Board of Aldermen approved the decision to terminate Esco from his job for “improperly disposing of dogs,” according to Canton Police.

Two days before Thanksgiving, Ms. Young received a call from someone who knew a dog had been picked up by animal control and she was asked to pursue getting the dog so the caller could help place or even adopt the animal herself. When Mississippi Animal Rescue League, the private kennel where dogs are held for a five-day period, was contacted about this dog, it was learned that Canton’s animal control officer, Alonzo Esco, had not arrived at the shelter and had not been seen there for several months, which led to the question, “what is he doing with the dogs?”
Speculation was that Esco had been selling them as bait for dogfighting. But what became clear after an investigation by the Canton Police Department as a result of Debbie Young’s formal affidavit was that Esco had shot at least 100 dogs and dumped their bodies in a Canton waterway. The findings were turned over to the Canton City Council on Tuesday and Mr. Esco’s employment with the city was then terminated.

Because the crimes were not a felony, the case would have to be taken up in a lower court. And the Mayor of Canton said that because it was a misdemeanor, the city would not take up the case at all, leading Debbie Young to file multiple misdemeanor charges on behalf of IDA, which is also seeking the Department of Environmental Quality to file its own charges for an environmental hazard.

“We will not let go of this,” said Doll Stanley, director of IDA’s Project Hope. “It is absolutely appalling and disgusting that an animal control officer working for any municipality would take it upon himself to violate city policy by shooting animals entrusted to his care. We know this goes on in different communities in Mississippi, and we’re hoping that when these same communities see that Mr. Esco is prosecuted to the fullest extent of the law that they will wake up and smell the coffee.”
Esco is facing at least 100 counts of animal cruelty for shooting the dogs. IDA is also looking into the fact that he used city property to act illegally.

Sources revealed that Esco was let go from the Canton Fire Department for stealing gasoline and “demoted” to animal control.

“What is very disconcerting is that a city employee would be demoted to animal control. It is really disturbing that an animal control position is not considered respectable. Sadly, here in the Mississippi, animal control is often viewed as a gateway to the police or fire department. As an auxiliary policeman, Esco did have a police weapon and this is the weapon he used to kill these animals.”

On Wednesday morning, WLBT, a local Mississippi TV and radio station, conducted a poll asking listeners what they thought about animal cruelty and should the state statutes be stronger. There was an 86 percent lead in favor of strengthening Mississippi state laws, which IDA’s Doll Stanley has vigorously dedicated herself to for years regarding legislation about animals.