Multiple agencies have filed charges or planning to bring charges against a sixty-year-old Onalaska man whose seven dogs attacked and killed at least 13 goats on Goat Island last Monday. The Trinity County River Authority has cited him for camping in an unauthorized area, while Game Warden, Anthony King, reported that he has also been charged with failure to restrain his dogs. Other charges are possible, pending an ongoing investigation by the Trinity County Sheriff's Department and other area law enforcement agencies.
Once people heard about the incident, rumors ignited on social media. People were saying that the man intentionally put out bait food to lure the goats, then sicced his dogs on them."
Some have called for heavy fines, for the offender to replace the goats, receive jail time, do community service, make restitution, and serve a hefty prison sentence. Others have questioned the integrity of our law enforcement officers. Because they say, things are moving too slowly.
After being urged to be patient with the investigation process one woman posted on Facebook, "Ok. I am more than willing to sit back....watch law enforcement, investigators...and the Justice system do their jobs. Always have done so. But this is one time I will watch closely. The burden is on the authorities, and we will see if Justice is blind.
People are angry and want the authorities to move quickly. They want them to arrest this man if he is guilty of a malicious crime. Nobody desires to see a criminal escape justice; however, according to District Attorney, Bennie Schiro, we must, "Wait until we complete the investigation and all the facts are in before we can expect real justice."
The Game Warden, Sheriff Woody Wallace, and the District Attorney agree that there are two issues to address before they can bring final charges. While everyone is certain who owned the dogs, who camped out, and who to point the proverbial finger at, they are less sure about what he can be charged with and exactly what crime he committed. On the surface the answer seems obvious, but not so.
The first question is, how are the goats defined, and based on that definition, what law protects them? Are they domestic farm animals or are they feral? There is one set of laws that protect domestic goats, and another that deals with wild ones. A feral goat is simply a goat who was once domestic but has become established in the wild.
A domestic goat has certain protections afforded him. If a farmer owns a goat, the farmer can sue. The goat is considered property and has a value.
A feral goat is in the same basic category as a feral hog. Texas A&M's AgriLife Extension explains, "Landowners own the feral hogs that occupy their property." The landowner is responsible for any damage the animals cause and responsible for removing them himself.
The state protects neither wild hogs or wild goats. Feral hogs are not a game or non-game species in Texas. Instead, they are considered exotic livestock. You can hunt without a hunting license, year-round, and without the rules that apply to wild game protected by the state.
Neither of these questions, domestic or feral provides many options to law enforcement. The next question that we must answer is one of intent. Did this man intentionally take his seven dogs out to Goat Island, set out food to lure the goats, and then sic his dogs on them. If he did, then why did he do it? Was it just for fun or sick pleasure?
Game Warden, Anthony King, isn't convinced that the suspect acted with malicious intent, "I believe this was a situation that got out of control and he didn't mean for it to happen. After all, this is a sixty-year-old guy who decided to camp out on this Island to enjoy getting away with his wife. I can't imagine he did this on purpose."
Schiro explained that the investigation is ongoing and would continue until they have answered these questions. There are few options available, but the most likely solution is to convene a grand jury and let them decide what charges to bring.
Sheran Casey, wife of Constable Carl Casey explains, "Trinity has an excellent judicial system diligently working behind the scenes. They cannot share everything with the public, but there is no doubt that they will do the best job possible within the confines of the law in the state of Texas."