By Ed Brock
Gary Miller escaped a felony conviction of dog fighting and aggravated animal cruelty, but his conviction on three misdemeanor animal cruelty charges mean he'll never own a dog again.
Miller reportedly reacted strongly when hearing Thursday that as part of his sentencing on the misdemeanor charges he would be restricted from ever owning a dog.
"His whole concern was when did he get his dogs back," Clayton County Assistant District Attorney John Oden said.
Also, Miller was sentenced to 12 months in jail for each animal cruelty charge. The sentences are to run consecutively but with the last sentence being suspended so he could spend up to two years in jail.
Miller was arrested Feb. 13, 2004 at his Jonesboro home on Hastings Way, behind which, in a wooded area off Miller's property, police found a dog fighting pen, the bodies of two dogs and bones of perhaps several more. A well-worn path connected the pen to Miller's property and the area where he kept four pit bull terriers that were seized during a search of the home.
At least three of the dogs were underweight and showed injuries and scars consistent with having been in fights.
Miller, who police found hiding in his attic when they came to serve a search warrant at the house, was charged with two counts of aggravated animal cruelty in connection with the two dead dogs found by the pen and the condition of one of the four dogs, Bat Girl, who was partially blind from an injury to one eye, Oden said.
While admitting he was not a good caretaker of the dogs, Miller, while testifying in his own defense on Wednesday, gave several excuses for the condition of the dogs. He said his 14-year-old son was supposed to feed the dogs and beside that he didn't think the dogs were underweight.
"I like mine slim," Miller said. "I don't like a heavy dog."
In a previous case in Douglas County animal control officers there found equipment commonly used to train dogs for fighting at Miller's house. They included a treadmill and "dog hangers," ropes with pieces of cloth at one end for the dog to bite while hanging from a tree limb.
The treadmill builds muscle mass in fighting dogs, Douglas County Animal Control Officer William Hamrick said in his testimony, and hanging from the rope gives the dog stronger jaw muscles for biting. The heavy chain with which the dogs were leashed toughen their skin and also build muscle mass, Hamrick said.
Miller claimed the treadmill was for exercising the dogs on rainy days, that they enjoyed hanging from the ropes and that the chain was to keep people from stealing the dogs.
Oden said he thinks the jury just decided the prosecution hadn't proved the specific facts that were written in the felony charges. In a fourth misdemeanor animal cruelty charge on which Miller was acquitted Oden thinks the jury was influenced by the fact that the dog to which the charge applied, a puppy, had been well fed and only needed to be dewormed.
Robin Rawls, vice president of the Clayton County Humane Society, said she had another reason why the jury reached the decision it did.
"I don't think juries in this county are extremely intelligent any more," Rawls said.
"In Clayton County you can abuse animals and get away with it if you ask for a jury trial," Rawls said. "If these were children found in these conditions it would be a different story."
Rawls said the three older dogs likely won't be adopted since they have a history of being fought and might be aggressive toward other pets, so they'll probably be destroyed. Oden said it's possible that Miller's family could adopt the dogs.