Where are They Now: Mayor Set-Them-Free and Murphy

I wanted to follow up on a couple of cruelty cases I followed in recent months.

Starting with the Arkansas Mayor who found his town’s shelter dogs annoying and so ordered them “set free” in the National Forest:

In June, he said he was faced with a dilemma as the city was trying to deal with a stray-dogs problem while residents complained that a dilapidated shelter at the city’s sanitation department was inadequate.

Yeah so obviously any reasonable person would deduce that the solution to the problem of dogs being housed in filth at the dump is to turn them loose in the forest. Sounds like a swell plan, except that it’s a crime. Oh snap.

In December, the US Forest Service slapped the Mayor (lightly, on the wrist) with a $300 fine and ordered him to pay $1600 in restitution to the group who rescued the dogs – that is, the dogs who didn’t get shot by an area resident.

Then there was Murphy, the Australian Shepherd whose owner allegedly bashed his head in with a sledgehammer and left him to die in an Atlanta area park. Robert Kennedy was walking his own dogs when he came upon Murphy and brought him to a local Vet. Against all odds, and down one eye, Murphy recovered well enough to join Mr. Kennedy’s family:

He will move into the home —- with a fenced-in yard —- that Kennedy shares with his 25-year-old daughter and two 2-year-old golden retrievers.


Nearly 600 people have given to a trust fund that Kennedy set up to help defray the more than $6,000 vet bill so far. Kennedy initially intended to pay the bill himself, but set up the account after being inundated with offers to help from as far away as Puerto Rico and Canada.

“I’m just overwhelmed by the generosity of people, and I’m going to make sure that generosity is justified,” he said.

Dude, it’s justified.

Mr. Kennedy volunteers with a local Golden Retriever rescue which was scheduled to take part in a parade on New Year’s Eve and so:

The Australian shepherd will walk with the Golden Retriever Rescue of Atlanta as part of the 1.25-mile parade from the Georgia Dome to the World Congress Center.


Kennedy at first though he would have to wheel Murphy, who remains somewhat wobbly after the attack but did not suffer permanent brain damage. But Kennedy has taken Murphy on hikes with his other dogs, Stella and Charlie, and the injured dog has managed even longer walks than the parade route.

As for the manly-man who needed a sledgehammer and a loyal pet to demonstrate his superior testosterone:

Murphy’s former owner, Joseph “Joe” Waters, 48, is free on $25,000 bail on a felony count of animal cruelty.

If convicted, I hope this scumbag gets some time behind bars to show off his macho skillz.

Arkansas Mayor: Nanner-Nanner-Boo-Boo

UPDATE, July 19: The Arkansas Democrat Gazette is reporting that Mayor Misdemeanor has temporarily lost his license to practice law after the Supreme Court Committee on Professional Conduct reviewed his actions regarding a 1999 case unrelated to the animal cruelty charges he now faces. Apparently in the 1999 case, the Mayor took a $300 retainer from a client and basically did nothing to further the client’s case. The client was unable to reach the Mayor and so filed a complaint with the Committee in 2007. After the Committee advised the Mayor of the complaint, he sent the client a check for his $300 but postdated it by a full year. In his defense, the Mayor said something along the lines of “Oops.”

I can’t help but wonder if the Mayor will attempt to represent himself in court on the animal cruelty charges – you know, assuming his license is reinstated. And if so, will there be clowns, elephants and a ringmaster?


Mayor Set-Them-Free of Arkansas has a warrant out for his arrest after the local humane society director, whom the Mayor has belittled at every opportunity, signed an affadavit alleging animal cruelty charges. Now, in a playground move apparently designed to push the
HS director off the swing and make her cry, Mayor Shenanigans has signed an affadavit calling for her arrest. The Mayor has not yet been arraigned on his charges.

The Mayor gots his own blog and again, I’m hard pressed to pick just one quote but – regarding the dogs under his city’s care which he kept at the dump, he says, “Strangely the conditions at the pound have been questioned.” Yeah, totally bizarro. Cos like, what pet wouldn’t want to live at your charming city dump? Especially given all the opportunities for adoption as families stroll around the landfill looking for a companion.

Arkansas Mayor to Face Charges

“As far as this crime thing, there was no crime committed,” said Mayor Set-Them-Free of Arkansas to the City Council as they debated a resolution to support the Mayor, who now has a warrant out for his arrest on charges of animal cruelty.

Right. Well sure it’s not a “crime” in the sense of say, detaining hundreds of prisoners indefinitely without trial. (Which is a crime, btw. In case anyone is paying attention.) But it is a “crime” in the sense that it’s a violation of the laws of the state of Arkansas (“cruelty to animals” and “obstructing the prevention of cruelty to animals”) and the federal laws of the United States (abandoning animals on public land). No one, not even Mayor I-Am-Not-A-Criminal, has the right to dump shelter dogs in his city’s care at a National Forest.

The resolution failed to pass because only 4 of 9 members were on board. Kudos to the 5 council members who effectively said “Whaaaaaa?” when asked to vote their support for the resolution.

The Mayor will get his day in court (tentatively set for July 11 in Helena-West Helena District Court) to face the two misdemeanor animal cruelty charges. No word yet on any federal charges. Meanwhile, 4 of the abandoned dogs have been rescued by a recovery team.

Arkansas Mayor Redefines the Word "Apology"

As has become obvious, it’s best when Mayor Set-Them-Free speaks for himself.  Please read his detailed “apology” letter here.  He’s not sorry he abandoned the dogs in the forest, he’s just sorry people complained.  Hard to pick a favorite from the many gems he has given us, but this one – which I assume is a typo – is a priceless bit of advice coming from someone who seems to be annoyed, at best, at having to serve the public in the course of his job as a public servant:

“Please, do let this opportunity to do good pass you by.”

Typo or not – well said, Mayor.

Paws Down and Paws Up

Breaking News – No action has been taken on the complaint filed by someone from the humane society against Mayor Set-Them-Free of Arkansas. Well, maybe not so breaking. But inaction speaks. And people are listening.

Mayor James Valley just endears himself more and more to animal lovers (and other people with brains) every time he opens his mouth. “The Humane Society is up to their regular old shenanigans, trying to get a man arrested for nothing,” Valley said. Full updated story here.

Meanwhile Mayor Shenanigans’ neighboring shelter has a very good plan for what to do when space becomes an issue: they have an “emergency adopt-a-thon” where pets can be adopted at no charge along with very low cost spay-neuter certificates. Now that’s a plan! Read that shelter’s reaction to the Mayor’s actions here.

More on Southern Shelters in the News

God but I never get tired (yawn) of reading stories about how stupid Southerners breed their dogs, raise them badly then dump them irresponsibly at shelters so that smart Northerners, with no puppies in their own shelters because they are such upright citizens, must truck the unwanted problem dogs up North for adoption. But then – doh! – the unsuspecting Northerners get bushwhacked by these bad Southern dogs with behavioral problems.
Come on. There are irresponsible people everywhere. And there are dogs with behavioral problems left in shelters everywhere. It’s like 2008. Join us.

Update on Mayor Misdemeanor in Arkansas (misdemeanor is apparently all he could be charged with) – Someone from the humane society has filed a complaint seeking his arrest for “setting free” dogs under his city’s care into the national forest. No action has been taken on the complaint by the city’s judges toward actually issuing an arrest warrant. I’ll be holding my breath on that one. The complainant states that after hearing of the Mayor’s “freedom” plan for the dogs, she asked him for two hours to get together volunteers to assume responsibility for the dogs. He couldn’t wait. Full update piece here.

You Give Love a Bad Name: Pets Continue to Suffer in Southern Shelters

Macon.com reports on a public meeting held to discuss animal control issues in the Macon, Georgia animal shelter.
Citing Macon Animal Control’s 80% kill rate for 2007, the reporter notes that at the time she visited the facility, the tally of animals available for adoption was:
Dogs: 4
Cats: 0
Approximately 20 other animals were on hold, awaiting medical clearance before being released for adoption. The shelter’s inhalant anesthesia machine is broken and so presumably only those surgeries performed under injectable anesthesia are taking place. A local Vet offered to perform surgeries at his practice but apparently Animal Control doesn’t have the personnel or vehicles necessary to transport pets there.
The outdoor carbon monoxide gas chamber, where almost 4000 animals were killed in groups last year, is functioning however. Given the shelter’s proximity to the city landfill, where the gassed pets are disposed of, the transportation challenges haven’t been an issue.
A fund has been established in an effort to raise money for killing pets individually by injection and for possibly relocating the shelter in future. Contact Macon City Council at (478) 751-7260 for information on how to contribute.
Full story here.

Meanwhile a Mayor in Arkansas is handling his animal control challenges another way: by releasing homeless dogs into the St. Francis National Forest. He thought it would be better to abandon the dogs in the forest than to house them in the shelter’s horrible conditions. O and an animal control officer suffered two dog bites and a sprained ankle over a 3 month period, which the Mayor obviously considers outrageous.
Never mind the fact that domesticated dogs are not wild forest animals and releasing them to freedom, as the Mayor puts it, is inappropriate. Never mind that our elected officials are being paid to serve their communities, not make rash decisions which will have many layered negative consequences. Never mind probing the reasons why there is a surplus of homeless pets in the South (poverty, substandard education system, lack of community service programs, etc.). My question: Isn’t this against some kind of federal law governing our national forests? If so, can the Mayor and any relevant parties involved in this inhumane act be prosecuted?

Update: The Mayor was questioned on June 13 by investigators from the U.S. Forest Service. And apparently the community isn’t too happy with the actions of their public servant either and have been voicing their annoying opinions. Says the Mayor: “You would think that from all the emails and calls I just unleashed the world’s greatest problem… We’re talking about 10 dogs.”
Read the full follow up article here.

Personal Note: In case any of you are wondering – and if you rely on media reports then quite possibly you are – MOST of us in the South are kind and normal people. Those of us who choose to have pets are responsible. We just don’t make the news as often as the bad apples.
This is my dog Emily, rescued from a South Carolina shelter, well loved and cared for. She might not win any beauty contests but she is a treasure to me.