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Dog owner pleads guilty

By Ed Brock

A Jonesboro woman accused of being involved in dog fighting pleaded guilty to violation of a county ordinance Thursday.

The resulting sentence of two years probation and 500 hours of community service for Cynthia Byrd, a Fulton County corrections officer, came about because of an error in filing accusations against her by the Clayton County Solicitor General's Office.

Police removed three dogs from Byrd's house on Noah's Ark Road in July 2002 after another of her dogs named Big Man was found wandering on the road near her house suffering from severe injuries. Another dog, Little Man, was also taken from the house prior to the other three dogs.

Little Man and Big Man had injuries prosecutors said were indicative of dog fighting.

An assistant prosecutor filed a second accusation against Byrd instead of amending the first accusation, Solicitor General Keith Martin said, and then the Clayton County State Court judge refused to dismiss the first accusation. That accusation contained felony charges, Martin said, and could not be prosecuted in State Court.

"I got the impression I'd have to go to the county ordinances today or lose altogether," Martin said.

So they negotiated a plea with Byrd. The sentence also forbids Byrd from having any animals in her house for the time of her probation.

"I'm angry," said Robin Rawls, vice-president of the Clayton County Humane Society, regarding the verdict.

Little Man will remain at Clayton County Animal Control's shelter until Byrd's husband Antonio Byrd is apprehended and brought to trial on more charges in connection with the incident, Martin said.