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Harmontown pet owners worried about dogs being shot

While strolling around County Road 551 in Harmontown, one thing becomes clear: there are a lot of dogs. Many of them sit on porches barking at passersby and some of the less shy ones might come up to greet you.

But recently, there have been issues with the dogs in the community. On Feb. 6, Joe, a pitbull mix owned by the Cox family, was shot and nearly killed. If it wasn’t for the assistance of Doll Stanley, the Director of Justice for Animals campaign for In Defense of Animals, who assisted with the veterinarian bills, Joe likely wouldn’t have made it.

Earlier this year, another dog, Josie, was shot and killed, by a neighbor who the Cox’s believe may be the same individual who went after Joe. A witness saw the neighbor holding a gun. While the Lafayette County Sheriff’s Department was called to the scene, they said that there was not enough evidence to bring a case upon anybody.

“There are other neighbors in this community who have had their dogs shot,” Stanley said during a brief press conference at the Cox home on Tuesday. “When the Sheriff’s Department came (after Josie was shot), what they said was rational. They said just because he was holding a gun doesn’t mean he shot it.”

But Joe and Josie aren’t the only incidents in Harmontown.

“I got a call that other dogs in the neighborhood had been shot and that others were missing,” Stanley said. “This is a community that seems to be very dog-friendly. One of the neighbors tells me there’s a lot of breeding going on. When you have a dog in heat, it’s very hard to keep your dog penned up. Joe is a house dog, but they typically take him out for walks. When you have children coming in and out, dogs can get loose.”

Stanley’s advice to dog owners in the community? Treat your dogs as you would your children.

“Our message to everybody is to try to know where your animals are,” she said. “They are not responsible for their behavior, you are their guardian. Please spay and neuter your animals. There are too many dogs running loose in this neighborhood that are unwanted and it’s a huge problem.”

Lafayette County currently does not have a leash law. But Mississippi Statute 97-41-16 (4a) (i), (ii), and (iii) allows for the defense of one’s property, life, and the life of one’s animals if an intruding animal is menacing or attacking.

“I say if they’re causing damage to the property, go to their guardian and tell them you want recompense,” Stanley added. “If you don’t get it, take them to court. Go to the source, don’t take it out on the animal.”

Stanley also noted that being neighborly can go a long way.

“The underlying factor is good stewardship and good communication with neighbors,” she said. “If you have a neighbor that doesn’t want to be a good neighbor, then you have to be that much more guarded.”

Tammy Cox, Joe’s owner, is both thankful to Stanley and hopes to see a change in the community.

“Joe wouldn’t be here if it wasn’t for (Stanley),” Cox said. “Just come and tell somebody that someone’s dog is in your yard. You don’t have to take action and shoot them. We all live here, we all know each other. It’s a small community; we’re all neighbors.”

The Lafayette County Sheriff’s Department was also contacted for comment for this story, but as of press time they had not made a statement.