By BOB PALMER
The mother of the man at the center of an international social media storm over alleged animal abuse in Marion County, said this week drug abuse led to the arrest of Daniel E. Pierce III, 52, on criminal charges.
“Danny loved those dogs,” Pat Pierce said. “I’m so sorry. The dogs weren’t like that six months ago.”
On Nov. 17, Pines Café owner Sandra Stephenson photographed emaciated dogs chained outside a school bus on property behind her establishment on FM 729.
“We had a person, cleaning up brush in the back,” Stephenson said. “My husband (Wayne Stephenson) went back to check on him.”
Wayne returned with a photo of a starving dog.
Sandra said they had not seen the dogs before because of the brush.
“So, I went around,” Sandra said. There were three dogs. I got in touch with Brook LaFleur (with the Dixie Humane Society).”
LaFleur was out of town and forwarded the photo to Caroline Wedding, owner of the Dixie Humane Society.
“Caroline does the actual rescuing,” LaFleur explained. “She went out there to assess the situation. No one came to the door of the school bus, Pierce’s habitation, when she (Wedding) knocked. She gave the dogs food and water which we are allowed to do and contacted the Sheriff’s Office.”
The complaint went to Marion County Chief Deputy Frank Cason.
“An individual texted me and I was off duty Saturday,” Cason said. “I received a picture and sent an on-duty officer to check the validity.”
“They have to take their necessary steps, too,” LaFleur said. “We cannot just go in there and take the animals.”
Meanwhile, photos of the dogs with protruding bones went viral on the internet and other media.
On Monday, deputies secured warrants to seize the dogs and arrest Pierce. The warrants were served early Tuesday.
According to Cason, Pierce did not resist arrest.
LaFleur explained Wedding took custody of the dogs and transported them to the humane society for observation and treatment.
”They are having human interactions,” LaFleur said. “Although they are staying outside, they are being fed and given shelter. They are prepared for winter.”
►Watch Hercules bounce around Dr. Bradley’s waiting area Tuesday (Nov. 27) while waiting for his appointment:
Pierce was charged with three counts of animal cruelty: failure to provide food and shelter as well as a charge with tampering or fabricating physical evidence. Officers say Pierce attempted to throw away a “meth pipe” as they approached. Bonds were also revoked on earlier charges of driving while license invalid and fleeing a police officer.
Pat Pierce painted a picture of a bare bones existence of her son’s life even before drugs entered the narrative.
“Danny was staying in what had been a Sunday School classroom at the former church across the road,” Pat Pierce said. “He would cook giant pots of food for the dogs in their kitchen.”
Pat purchased four lots for the dogs and Danny’s school bus.
“He would do odd jobs for people around Pine Harbor,” Pat said.
Pat agreed with one thing Sandra Stephenson had to say.
“I don’t want Daniel to get a pass on this,” Stephenson said.
“We are going to ask the judge to require Danny to spend two years in rehab,” Pat said.
On Tuesday, Bruce Bradley, D.V.M., examined Hercules and Zeus.
“They are under nourished,” Bradley said. “They are heartworm positive.”
The third dog to be seized was a border collie named Miss Marple. Wedding says she is still too aggressive to handle with a leash.
Bradley believes the two Great Dane mix dogs who weighed only about 60 pounds each could regain their full weight in as little as six weeks. They could then be treated for heartworms.
Although Dixie Humane Society has received about $500 in donations to assist the rescue dogs, LaFleur said donations of tarps, blankets, Purina One True Instinct dog food and cash are still needed. Donations may be dropped off at Salon Rouge on Polk Street.
LaFleur believes the dogs have a positive prognosis.
“Miss Marple [the border collie], Hercules and Zeus are going to live, but it will be a long time before they look healthy,” LaFleur said. “Just being shown love is instant therapy.”
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