By BOB PALMER
Jimplecute News Editor
JEFFERSON – According to family and friends, Daniel E. Pierce, III, now wanted on a warrant for probation violations, at one time loved Zeus, Hercules and Miss Marple, his three dogs.
The discovery of the three starving canines chained to an abandoned school bus in the Pine Harbor neighborhood off FM 729 launched a saga over animal control and treatment in Marion County that has run now for eight months.
The story of Hercules, Zeus and Miss Marple has had mixed results. The conclusion of the local government’s role in animal control has not yet been determined.
On Nov. 17, Sandra and Wayne Stephenson took pictures of the dogs with protruding ribs chained behind their Pines Café.
On Nov. 20, Caroline Wedding accompanied by Gayle Robinson, who had arrived at the shelter to volunteer, rescued the dogs and carried them to the Dixie Humane Society Shelter on North Street.
Wedding had performed an earlier evaluation, setting the stage for an intervention by the Marion County Sheriff ’s Department. Robinson returned to the animal shelter to help Wedding on Nov. 20 and was shocked at the conditions she found there.
She contacted the American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals. They suggested she contact local law enforcement. On Nov. 21, Pierce was arraigned on a charge of tampering or fabricating evidence, a third degree felony.
Officers said when they sought to arrest Pierce on an animal cruelty charge, a misdemeanor, Pierce fled and tossed away a meth pipe, giving grounds to the tampering charge. Robinson also met with the Jefferson Police Department on Nov. 21 and filed a report on Thanksgiving Day, Nov. 22, for JPD Chief Gary Amburn.
On Nov. 23, Robinson met again with the Jefferson Police Department and showed photos she had taken to Mayor Charles “Bubba” Haggard, who responded, “Oh my, we just gave her $16,000 last week.”
Wedding filed a criminal trespass complaint against Robinson on Nov. 26. The Jimplecute printed the story about the rescue of Hercules, Zeus and Miss Marple on Nov. 29 and followed up with a visit to the Dixie shelter on Dec. 4 when conditions there appeared sufficient on a dry day with temperatures hovering around 40 degrees.
On Dec. 7, however, a cold front struck with icy rain and wind. The Jimplecute broke the story that “80 Dogs Face Crisis Weekend” because of the weather. Volunteers who rushed to the shelter found feces covering the cement floors of many cages and inadequate protection from the elements.
Wedding said her paid employee was discharged in October and she was forced to rely on volunteers who could not keep up with the work. Many of the 80 dogs were moved that night to the former Jaynes Feed Store location.
Also on Dec. 7, Pierce was indicted by the Marion County Grand Jury. As dogs were relocated to either new owners or the Marshall Animal Clinic, Dixie Animal Shelter, also known as Marion County Humane Society, suspended operations. A new organization, Friends of Jefferson Animals took over adoption and rescue efforts.
On Jan. 2, Pierce received a new attorney, John Moore. Pierce plead guilty to the charge of tampering on Jan. 23 and received a probated sentence. On the weekend of April 5-7, East Texas animal activists rescued about 80 dogs that were allowed to roam the Island View development on the south shore of Lake O’ the Pines.
The dogs were taken to a Dallas shelter. On April 24, the state filed a petition to revoke Pierce’s probated sentence and an arrest warrant was issued. It was also on the night of April 24 when the satirical “Elmer” post appeared on the Marion County Sheriff ’s Department Facebook page, presenting an unkempt homeless man as the county’s new animal control officer.
A Texas Public Information Act request by the Jimplecute revealed the post had been made by Marion County Sheriff David McKnight. In June, the Marion County Grand Jury no-billed Wedding and other officers of Marion County Humane Society.
On July 16, the Jefferson City Council discussed the possibility of building four kennels to house stray dogs until the City of Marshall can accept them, but reached no conclusion. Police Chief Gary Amburn admitted to aldermen that he “was lax” in monitoring conditions at the Dixie shelter, but what was important was “what are we going to do now.”
The Jimplecute has been told that Hercules and Zeus were adopted by Marshall residents. Miss Marple was adopted by a Jefferson family, but was euthanized after she attacked and killed the family’s small dog.
Sheriff McKnight continues to defend Wedding and refuses to answer questions about why Pierce has not been arrested. Pine Harbor residents say Pierce is often seen in their development carrying a machete despite the arrest warrant out against him.
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