Miss. worker accused of killing 100 dogs, cats

JACKSON — An animal control officer in Mississippi is accused of killing as many as 100 dogs and cats and dumping the carcasses into a creek, and authorities said Friday that he could face criminal charges.

Canton Police Chief Vickie McNeill said information from her department’s ongoing investigation of Alonzo Esco would be sent to the district attorney’s office on Friday.

McNeill wouldn’t say exactly how many animals were killed or where the carcasses were dumped. However, Canton Alderman Charles Weems said there were at least 100 animals based on photographs the police department showed city officials. The Canton Board of Aldermen fired Esco on Tuesday after McNeill recommended his termination.

“As far as we know, they’re animals he came across as part of his job. We’re continuing our investigation and that could change,” McNeill said.

There was no telephone listing for Esco, and officials didn’t know if he had an attorney.

Weems said Esco had worked as the animal control officer for about three years in Canton, a city of 12,500 about 25 miles north of Jackson. Esco also patrolled Madison County as part of a city contract, Weems said.

Esco’s duties included euthanizing animals that posed a threat or had illnesses, such as rabies or mange. However, many of the animals appeared healthy in photos taken before they died, Weems said.

“You could tell nothing was wrong with them. You see a person that kills some animals and there’s nothing wrong with them, it’s horrible,” Weems said.

McNeill said the investigation began after a woman filed a complaint. The woman had gone to the animal shelter to adopt a dog, but the dog wasn’t there.

“She reported that the animal control officer had picked the dog up. He eventually let us know the animal had been euthanized,” McNeill said.

Esco could face several misdemeanor charges, said District Attorney Michael Guest. Guest said his office would assist the county prosecutor’s office, which initially handled the case, if needed.

“What I hope will happen is this will be the case to push the Legislature to look at state laws that relate to animal cruelty and these kind of crimes and make them felonies,” Guest said.

MS FACT, an animal rights organization, will lobby lawmakers this session to make first-offense, aggravated animal cruelty a felony. The group has collected about 25,000 signatures on a petition supporting the proposal, said Tiffany Frautschi, president of MS FACT.

She said Mississippi is one of four states that doesn’t have a felony animal cruelty law against dogs and cats.

Frautschi said she’s received several calls and e-mails about the Canton case.

“It’s unbelievable to think that someone charged with the care of animals could do something like this,” Frautschi said.

Shelia Byrd/The Associated Press