City Council President Arrested In Animal Cruelty Case
|The emaciated dog being bathed by the authorities after impoundment.|
In a telephone interview the day after Barnes dismissed the case, City Attorney Tamara Johnson disagreed with the judge’s assessment, explaining that even though special prosecutors were hired, the city can still provide resources [including subpoenas] with which to try the case. The law department, however, can not tell a special prosecutor how to try cases, according to Johnson. The city attorney said she had contacted Barnes to tell him that a conflict of interest existed with the law department as well as with any municipal judge handling the case, since municipal judges are appointed by the City Council. (Loder’s Administration Committee recommended reappointment of Barnes this past August.) Johnson added that the law department was not informed of the expedited hearing until two days before it was scheduled. She said she had no idea Barnes was going to hear the case when she first contacted him. It had originally been scheduled to be heard by Judge Agnes Chappell on October 24.
According to a police report filed September 26, Lee Loder’s dog was reported by Paul Clark, a carpenter working in the neighborhood. Clark described the dog, a 60-pound mixed breed named Stokely, as “skin and bones. I saw the condition of the dog. You had a chain that was so knotted up it was like a rigid bar. It wouldn’t even sag. For me that’s inexcusable . . . He had severely limited movement. I’d be surprised if he had more than a three or four foot radius that he could maneuver in . . . The dog’s ribs were sticking out and its eyes were sunk in. The dog was right at the point of starvation.” The police report confirmed that the dog appeared to be starving and was so emaciated that “all bony prominences [were] evident from a distance.” The animal was chained up in a fenced-in area out of reach of shelter due to the chain being “wrapped and hooked on his neck,” according to the report, which added that the dog was soaked and shivering after two days of rain. Animal cruelty officer Dana Johnston, who investigated the case, called Birmingham-Jefferson County Animal Control, which impounded the dog until October 10, when it was released into the custody of Loder’s veterinarian, Dr. Jerome Williams (who will eventually return the dog to Loder).
|Photos taken September 26 of Lee Loder’s dog chained in the rear of Loder’s house.|
The dog reportedly had heartworms, intestinal and external parasites, and fleas. Williams examined the dog within 24 hours after impoundment. “I found the heartworms. I was told by the vet [at animal control] that she found intestinal worms and fleas.” Williams wrote in a letter regarding his observations to Judge Barnes, “Based on my personal observations of Stokely’s demeanor, his age, his vital indicators, his laboratory tests, and his medical history, I am of the opinion that the animal’s condition at the time of his impoundment was within acceptable normal range.” In an interview the day after the case’s dismissal, Williams described the dog as underweight when taken to animal control, but added that “skin and bones” was not a description that he would use, as the police report had.
|The chain had become so knotted that the dog was unable to reach shelter.|
Williams has been seeing Loder’s dog since 1996 and reports that worms have been a problem in the past. When asked if Loder had regularly addressed health problems concerning the dog, the vet described Loder as “not being an ‘ideal’ client,” but added that the majority of his clients “are not optimum.” He said that Loder had brought the dog in regularly for shots [according to the police report, Loder could not tell the arresting officer the last time the dog had received his rabies shot]. The dog was still in Williams’ custody at press time. The veterinarian reported that the dog was “responding well” to care.
Police spokesperson Lt. Henry Irby said animal cruelty officer Dana Johnston’s office received a call stating that there was a dog being abused. Irby said that officers did not know who the dog belonged to when they impounded it. Loder was contacted once he was discovered to be the owner. “We asked Mr. Loder to come in to talk,” said Irby. “At that time he was placed under arrest and then released on a $500 bond.”
Loder addressed the issue in an October 15 interview, two days before the case was suddenly dropped. “We do dispute the claims that there was criminal neglect,” said Loder, who would not comment on whether the dog was kept chained on a regular basis. “I don’t have any problem talking about this but because it’s a legal matter and the matter’s in court, I really don’t want to go into details.” Loder insisted that the dog was given “reasonable care,” adding, “I’ve had a dog all my life and taken care of dogs very well. I don’t think that’s a question. I love them, and that’s why I have them.” The Council President said that no complaints had been lodged against him in the past regarding the animal. Loder expressed concerns about the impoundment and arrest procedures, noting that provisions for a 10-day notice were not utilized, which Loder says is often the case. “I wasn’t given the opportunity that I think other people are generally given, which is if there was a concern that was raised, to address it . . . and I’m not agreeing that the concern was one that had to be addressed. . . . That was an option [giving notice] for somebody who believed I was a credible person. . . . One of the things that I cherish and try to make sacred is being honest, being responsible, and being credible. And you do that for days like this-I don’t want to be treated differently than anybody but I think I’m a credible person who is responsible and who ought to be believed when they make a statement about something.” Loder added, “After this is all over-and this is going to be resolved very soon-there will be no question regarding my care for this dog.”
Loder said he explained to animal control officers that it was “all a misunderstanding.” He said that he offered to take the dog to the vet before he signed the $500 bond but was “not given that opportunity.” Loder said, “I expect my name to be cleared through the courts. And after that, for those who still have suspicions, I’ll have the dog and he’ll be there [at Loder's home] and I’ll let folks see him since he’s become a public figure now.” &