Alba man fights for pets' rights after dog's poisoning death

An Alba man whose dog was poisoned last year is pushing for harsher punishments for people who maliciously kill animals.

Jerry Russell believes his beloved 3-year-old German shepherd-mix was deliberately poisoned by his neighbor, and he says he can prove it.

But a grand jury didn't see it that way. Jurors no-billed the case -- meaning there wasn't enough evidence to move forward with a trial.

Now, Russell says he wants to see Texas laws changed to protect family pets -- experts, however, say that's highly unlikely.

"I can't put a value on him," Russell said. "I just can't."

Anyone who's ever loved a pet knows how devastating it can be to lose one.

"He was a human being, even though he was a dog," Russell said. "And that's what most people look for in their animals, and that's what they look at is how well they blend in with their family. If an animal disappears out of the family unit, it's like somebody in the family passed away."

A veterinarian confirms Jojo Bear died last February after eating strychnine -- a highly toxic chemical often used as a pesticide.

Russell believes his beloved dog's death was no accident.

"Considering the level of evidence that I have collected, anybody that -- and everybody I've shown the evidence to and who has looked at it -- says there is reason to go ahead and take it to trial," he said. 
He says he documented years of disputes with his neighbor, including a threat against his dog back in 2010.

"I think it was his way to get even with us," Russell said. "And I wish I had taken that a lot more serious."

Russell says photos show his neighbor mixed meat with poison to attract Jojo Bear, and a necropsy report proves she had that mixture in her stomach when she died. But a Wood County grand jury said there wasn't enough evidence for a trial.

"The only reason that I can come up with is that it was a dog," Russell said. 

Deborah Dobbs, president of the SPCA of East Texas, says the organization gets hundreds of calls about alleged animal cruelty every year -- but unfortunately, cases like these are hard to prove.  

"I think for the most part it falls back on some very antiquated laws that still view dogs -- all companion animals -- as property, and it's very difficult to prove a case against another person beyond a reasonable doubt," Dobbs said. "When you're looking for a criminal prosecution, you've got to have that burden of proof met."

Russell's goal, he says, is to see Texas laws changed to recognize pets as family members -- not just possessions.

"To not take care of poor, defenseless animals is so wrong on every level of being ethical," he said. "You've got to take care of them, too."

Dobbs says that protecting animals from people like this accused neighbor really starts with the pet owners. She urges people to keep an eye on their pets every time they go outside, because there are no laws in place to protect you or your pet if they wander into someone else's yard.  

CBS19 reached out to the accused neighbor and the Wood County Sheriff, but our calls haven't been returned.

We were able to speak with the Wood County District Attorney, but he had no comment.


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