The case of a man accused of killing a dog by shooting an arrow into its face is headed to the Hamilton County grand jury.
Roger Beason, of Whitwell, Tenn., was in Hamilton County Sessions Court on Thursday on a charge of aggravated animal cruelty, a felony that could bring up to six years in prison and a $3,000 fine.
Mr. Beason admitted in September to shooting a stray German shepherd mix with a bow and arrow outside his office on Manufacturers Road in Chattanooga. The dog later was euthanized in a local veterinarian's office.
Although Thursday's hearing was only a preliminary step in the legal process, about a dozen people were in court to show support for "bringing animal cruelty to justice" as well as the McKamey Animal and Adoption Center law officers who brought the case against Mr. Beason, said McKamey Executive Director Karen Walsh.
"Because animal cruelty in the past hasn't been considered such a big charge, people haven't done jail time for it," she said. "We would like to see some jail time in this case because it shows Tennessee is taking that step forward to become more compassionate toward animals."
The arrow in the dog is the second case this year of animal cruelty that McKamey officers have brought to the Hamilton County district attorney, but the center rescues 16 to 20 neglected animals a month, she said.
A first-time offense is usually charged as animal cruelty, a misdemeanor, unless the animal dies, Ms. Walsh said.
After the July case of Rux the pit bull, whose ears were cut off by his owner with household scissors, the Mc-Kamey Center has become more aggressive in its efforts to catch animal abuse and neglect in the city, she said.
"People need to realize that when you do something like this, that it is a crime," she said. "It's just as much of a crime as stealing."
While Mr. Beason is an extreme case of animal cruelty, she said, many people are ignorant of cases of neglect. The owner starts by forgetting to feed the dog or cat or leaving a pet on a chain with no proper attention, she said.
Taking care of a pet, she said, "becomes a problem and not a beloved member of the family."
For example, Blair, a year-old boxer, was just "skin and bones" and had untreated eyes that needed surgery when she came to McKamey, said Paula Hurn, the McKamey director of operations.
Cases like Blair's happen frequently, Ms. Hurn said, when an owner ignores an easily fixed problem and it turns into a major issue.
While the Humane Educational Society of Chattanooga finds about 10 or 12 cases of animal cruelty and neglect throughout Hamilton County a month, the problem is mostly neglect, said Guy Bilyeu, the society's director.
Humane Society officers handle inhumane treatment of animals differently for each case, Mr. Bilyeu said. If the animal has obviously been abused, the owner or guardian is taken to court, which happens about three or four times a month, he said.
But instead of "clogging up the court system" all the time, Humane Society officers try to use best judgment and, in minor cases of neglect, "we do a three-strikes rule," he said.
A warning is given the first time and, if the neglect -- which includes letting the animal run freely -- is continued, officers threaten to take the owner to court.
If the neglect is found a third time, court is the only option, Mr. Bilyeu said.
McKamey officers are trying to educate owners on what constitutes neglect, Ms. Walsh said.
"If we find a situation where somebody is being cruel to a dog or cat in the city of Chattanooga, we are going to bring the case forward and hope the (district attorney) will prosecute them," she said.
McKamey Animal and Adoption Center:
* 16 to 20 cases of animal negligence a month
* 2 cases of animal cruelty this year
Humane Educational Society of Chattanooga
* 10 to 12 cases of animal neglect or cruelty a month
* 3 to 4 cases of animal cruelty taken to court a month
Cases of animal cruelty prosecuted this year:
* 2 cases in the Hamilton County Criminal Court
* 3 cases in the Hamilton County General Sessions
Tennessee law on animal cruelty
A person is guilty of animal cruelty if he or she:
* intentionally or knowingly tortures
* maims or grossly overworks
* fails unreasonably to provide necessary food, water, care or shelter
* abandons unreasonably
* transports or confines in a cruel manner
* inflicts burns, cuts, lacerations or other injuries or pain
Source: Animal Legal and Historical Center