Woman found not guilty of abuse to local service animal

Published 12:00 pm Thursday, August 11, 2016

An Oxford School District cafeteria worker was found not guilty of abuse of a service animal by Oxford Municipal Judge Larry Little Wednesday afternoon after a two-hour trial.

Mary Wesson was given the misdemeanor citation in April after former teacher assistant, Amanda Bohl, claimed Wesson struck her service dog Beatrice, a 9-month-old Great Dane, with a broom while sweeping under the lunch table where Beatrice was laying. Bohl said the dog jumped up and her arm was caught around the table leg, causing injury.

The two women worked for Oxford Elementary School.

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During the trial, Bohl said Beatrice was immediately limping and whimpering in pain. She took Beatrice to Pampered Paws Animal Hospital, that later referred her to the Mississippi State Animal Health Care Center in Starkville where tests reveal damage to her right should ligaments. Beatrice also developed an infection in the joint.

Bohl said medical bills mounted to about $7,000. Bohl said she was able to raise about $4,200 through a Go Fund Me account to help with the bills. Bohl has since moved to Washington state where she said Beatrice has fully recovered from her injuries.

Wesson took the stand and testified she was nowhere near the dog when Beatrice was injured and that she was back in the school’s kitchen. She admitted she wasn’t fond of Beatrice.

“I’m afraid of big dogs,” Wesson said. “So I don’t go around her.”

No witnesses

Bohl claims she saw Wesson hit Beatrice with the broom; however, no other witnesses could be found to testify they saw Wesson hit the dog. Fellow cafeteria worker Mike Lipsy testified that Wesson was in the kitchen with him for most of the lunch period.

A video shown at the trial showed Beatrice limping and obviously wounded; however Wesson’s attorney Justin Cluck told the court the injury was likely due to Beatrice trying to get out from under the table that was too small for a dog her size.

“Which was Bohl’s fault for allowing a dog under a table meant for children,”Cluck said.

Little said even misdemeanor charges have to be proven beyond a reasonable doubt.

“I’m not convinced this was,” Little said. “I can’t find this lady (Wesson) guilty. This wasn’t proven to be malicious and I’m not sure this dog is even a certified service dog. I don’t think I’ve ever convicted someone of assault who wasn’t guilty beyond a reasonable doubt and I can’t start today.”

The charge against Wesson was dropped. Little said the case could still be pursued in civil court.