By Ed Brock
Little Man the pit bull terrier should be up for adoption soon while one of his former owners has been acquitted of all charges in the animal cruelty case that led to Little Man's confiscation.
A jury deliberated for about half the day Wednesday before acquitting Antonio Byrd of the four counts of animal cruelty charges he faced. His trial lasted two days.
But that doesn't mean that Byrd, who is currently in jail on other charges, plans to take custody of Little Man, said Byrd's attorney Steve Frey.
"The dog is theirs to do with as they will," Frey said. "We wish the dog well."
Little Man, a pit bull named Big Man and three other dogs were seized from the Noah's Ark Road home of Cynthia and Antonio Byrd in July 2002 on suspicion that the dogs were being used in fights. The seizures were made after a member of the Clayton County Humane Society found Big Man wandering near the house with serious injuries.
Big Man later died from those injuries.
In August Cynthia Byrd was given two years probation and 500 hours of community service after pleading guilty to violating a county ordinance on the housing of animals.
Cynthia Byrd was also prohibited from owning an animal during the period of her probation. At one point last month the Clayton County District Attorney's Office had said Clayton County Animal Control would have to hold Little Man until her probation period was over unless the Byrds signed over custody of the dog.
On Monday Cynthia Byrd did just that, less than a week after Clayton County Solicitor General Keith Martin told her lawyer that they would consider her in violation of her probation if she retained custody of the dog. Martin said he couldn't say if she signed the dog over because of his warning.
Martin also expressed disappointment in the jury's decision on Wednesday.
"There are some cases that some juries just aren't going to convict on," Martin said. "I guess this was one of them."
Martin's office did a good job of prosecuting the case, Clayton County Humane Society Vice President Robin Rawls said, and she was angry about the jury's decision.
"There was a mountain of evidence against that man," Rawls said.
Frey is working with Clayton County Animal Control Capt. Toni Tidwell to arrange Antonio Byrd's official surrender of his claim on Little Man. After that the Humane Society will help find a home for the dog that has already spent more than a year in the animal control kennel.
"We had really made that commitment (to find Little Man a home) back when this first started," Rawls said.
Several people had previously expressed interest in adopting Little Man but they moved on because the dog could not be released, Rawls said.
Because of his breed the Humane Society will take extra precautions in screening potential owners to make sure they won't use him for dog fighting. Tidwell said they also must be careful that Little Man goes to a home where he can receive proper care.
"He's a special needs dog. He may not get along other animals," Tidwell said.
For more information on adopting Little Man call animal control at (770) 477-3509 or Rawls at (770) 471-9436.