Humane Society files complaint against mayor who let shelter dogs go

Mayor James Valley, who said last week the city was taking stray dogs to the St. Francis National Forest and turning them loose, has been targeted in a complaint by the Humane Society of Southeastern Arkansas that accuses him of animal abandonment, mistreatment and neglect.

A complaint signed by Ruby Burton, director of the humane group, was sworn out Monday with the Phillips County sheriff's office, in the form of an affidavit seeking Valley's arrest on the charges, all misdemeanors.

State law requires an arrest warrant based on the complaint to be issued by a judge, and neither of two local district judges - who handle such misdemeanor cases - had acted on the matter by late Tuesday afternoon.

"During Memorial Day weekend, we received calls from concerned citizens about the welfare of the animals" at kennels located at the city sanitation and street department, said Gloria Higginbotham, director of the local Humane Society affiliate.

She said volunteers fed and watered the animals at the kennels over the holiday weekend. Higginbotham said she encountered the mayor on one of her trips to the kennel and told him the living conditions for the dogs were not acceptable.

"I also told him we needed a shelter and property. He told me he was taking the dogs to Storm Creek," Higginbotham said. "I told him, 'Don't take those dogs anywhere,' and to give me two hours to get some people to help remove them from there."

Within two hours, she said, the 10 dogs had been dumped in the national forest.

An effort to get the issue discussed at a June 10 City Council meeting was unsuccessful, Higginbotham said, though photographs of the conditions were passed around to council members.

Valley said he had received hundreds of angry e-mails and phone calls after he ordered the release of the dogs in the St. Francis National Forest, many of them using strong language.

"I stand by my decision," Valley said. "I was doing what was in the best interest of this community."

Valley said last week that the city would need $50,000 to $60,000 to open a new animal shelter.

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