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Officer denies beating dog

By Ed Brock

A former Clayton County Animal Control officer took the stand Wednesday in his own defense at his trial on misdemeanor animal cruelty charges.

Allen Densley, 50, denied the charge that he beat a dog at the animal control shelter with a metal "catch pole" generally used to snare animals. Densley said he was just trying to move the dog and doesn't know how it ended up with injuries to its head.

"During that confrontation, there wasn't no way it could have happened," Densley said in his testimony on the second day of the misdemeanor trial.

On Tuesday Clayton County Humane Society Vice President Robin Rawls described seeing Densley beating the dog, a pit bull terrier, in its kennel at the shelter on Feb. 12.

Wednesday's testimony began with Karen Thomas, veterinarian at Three County Animal Clinic in Riverdale who treated the dog after the incident. She discovered contusions on the top of the dog's head and held it overnight to make sure there was no more bleeding or other problems.

Thomas said the dog wasn't seriously hurt and described how hard it is to hurt a pit bull on top of the head.

"Pit bulls have massive bone structures and they're heavily muscled on top of the head," Thomas said. "If you hit a pit bull on top of the head it's not going to cause nearly as much damage as if you hit, say, a Chihuahua."

Thomas also said that a redness around the dog's eyes shown in pictures taken of it shortly after the attack appeared to be its "third eyelid" that often projects out when a dog is sedated.

"It could have been caused by any severe blow to the head," Thomas said.

She also examined the dog's mouth for signs of injuries consistent with biting a metal catch pole, such as the one Densley allegedly used to beat the dog, and found none. Thomas said she's had experience using the poles, which have a noose-like loop of cable on one end that goes around the animal's neck like a leash, and dogs usually try to bite the pole as it comes toward them.

Thomas said the dog's injuries were not consistent with someone trying to catch it with a catch pole, but she admitted to Densley's attorney David Walker that the lack of injuries to the dog's mouth did not prove that it hadn't bitten the pole.

During his cross-examination Walker asked Thomas if certain dog species could be considered more vicious than others. Thomas said only individual dogs could be considered more vicious.

"It's not fair to paint a whole breed with a certain characteristic, just not it's not fair to paint a human race with a certain characteristic," Thomas said.

Thomas did say that if a dog is abused that could lead to vicious behavior.

In his testimony Densley said that the dog involved in the incident didn't appear to like him and denied Rawls description of the dog as sweet tempered.

"It was very, very aggressive. Snarling, growling," Densley said.

Densley said that the dog often charged the gate when he came to feed another dog in the kennel next to the pit bull. He had come to like the other dog, Densley said, and on the day of the incident he decided to move the pit bull because its aggressive behavior was reducing the other dog's chance of getting adopted.

"(The pit bull) was fighting with the pole," Densley said. "I went to put the pole around his neck, he started hollering out real loud like somebody was killing it."

Densley, still dressed in the same black leather jacket and wearing dark sunglasses as he had on Tuesday, said he moved back from the dog when he noticed Rawls looking at him from the doorway leading into the kennel area. He said he went outside and came back about five minutes later and saw Rawls and another Animal Control employee taking pictures of the dog and the kennel.

In her cross examination of Densley Clayton County Master Assistant Solicitor General Evelyn Sandefur questioned Densley's explanation for why he decided to move the dog.

She asked Densley why he decided to move the dog even though he knew the pit bull and the other dog were both scheduled to be killed the next morning and there was only 15 minutes left for somebody to come in and adopt the dog that day.

"People come in at five minutes to five (when the shelter closes)," Densley said.

Sandefur also asked Densley if he called in sick the day after the incident because he knew he was in trouble. And she asked him how, if the dog had no injuries when he left it and there was no blood in its kennel, why was there blood evident in the photos he saw Rawls taking five minutes after the incident.

Densley said he didn't know.

Sandefur asked why Densley didn't get somebody to help him move the dog instead of doing it by himself.

"It was a perfect opportunity for you to hurt a dog that you didn't like, wasn't it?" Sandefur said.

"No," Densley retorted.

The jury will hear closing arguments this morning.