‘Pit Bull’ Parrish takes Hodge, SCAR to task
Sheriff Alex Hodge had an unfamiliar seat Tuesday — on the defendant’s side in the courtroom. But it will be another month before he has to answer questions about where Col. David and Mary Ellen Sennes’ five pet dogs are.
That’s because there was a problem with serving subpoenas to the attorney for the Humane Society of the United States and the sheriff, so the hearing was reset for Oct. 18.
“It’s amazing that the process server can’t find the sheriff across the hall,” said the Sennes’ attorney J. Ronald Parrish, who was frustrated after the Tuesday morning hearing in Jones County Circuit Court in the Ellisville courthouse. “My clients just want their pets back, if they haven’t murdered them.”
Parrish had a veterinarian prepared to testify that the Sennes spent $700 per month caring for the animals — including one that had a bill for $6,500 — and he had receipts showing that they spent $3,000 per month on pet food. He is also prepared to take Southern Cross Animal Rescue to task for its role in the July 11 raid that led to the arrest of the Sennes.
“SCAR may get deeper involved,” he said. “They took at least 20 dogs and dumped them on Mr. and Mrs. Senne because no one else would adopt them … then helped facilitate the raid by an out-of-state organization.”
Parrish also questioned Hodge’s alliance with HSUS in the “three-month investigation” that led to the search warrant being executed and the arrests.
“All I can find about HSUS is that they endorsed Barack Obama for president in 2008,” Parrish said. “I don’t know if they’re a political organization or an animal rights organization.”
Board of Supervisors attorney Danielle Ashley was representing Hodge, who was flanked by Maj. Jamie Tedford, process server Bob Shoemake and public relations specialist Allyson Knotts.
Ashley told the court that the case will be turned over to the county insurance carrier, the Mississippi Supervisors Association Insurance Trust, so its attorney Will Allen will be handling the case on Oct. 18. Allen also serves as counsel for the Mississippi Sheriff’s Association.
Hodge and Ashley were in court because they learned of the hearing “through the news media,” Parrish said.
The local attorney who was designated to fill in for HSUS, Andrew Cardwell, was not served his subpoena until Friday, which wasn’t within the required five days’ notice before the court date. His office was apparently served with the subpoena for Hodge, too.
“They served the wrong person,” Parrish said. “The failure to serve the sheriff is inexcusable.”
Judge Dal Williamson agreed.
“It is a little puzzling why they would serve Regina Higginbotham with service for Sheriff Alex Hodge,” he said.
The judge told all of the witnesses who were in the courtroom to return at 9 a.m. Oct. 18 for the rescheduled hearing.
HSUS and Hodge are named in a lawsuit that was filed by Parrish in Jones County Circuit Court in Ellisville last month. In the complaint, Parrish claims that the sheriff and HSUS are “wrongfully holding” his clients’ family pets that were supposed to be returned to them after 89 dogs and cats were seized in a raid on their Lyon Ranch Road property on July 11.
During a press conference after the search warrant was served at the Sennes’ property, Hodge told reporters that the suspects had signed paperwork to give up all but five of the animals that were seized, and those five were “being well cared for by others” until the matter is settled in court. The Sennes were charged with aggravated animal cruelty, strip-searched and dressed in prison stripes, then made their initial appearance in Jones County Justice Court before being released.
The criminal case has been delayed until December. So Parrish filed a replevin complaint — which has to do with the return of seized items while awaiting the outcome of a trial — in circuit court, which typically handles those issues.
“They’ve had ample opportunity to find out the truth, but they proceed in the persecution of a decorated, Purple Heart recipient Vietnam veteran,” Parrish said. “They continue to hold hostage the pets that lived in the house with them. We’re just trying to keep them from killing the animals. Give these people back their pets. They’re getting insurance lawyers involved. We just want their pets back.”
The pets the Sennes were supposed to get back are described in the complaint as:
• Precious, a partially blind poodle mix that’s about 15 years old;
• Abby, a 40-pound mixed breed that’s about 12 years old, partially blind and deaf;
• Miss Poo, a 20-year-old blind and deaf poodle that’s on medication;
• Sister Angel, a 20-year-old poodle that’s deaf and has a skin problems;
• Coco, a 20-year-old blind and deaf poodle with skin issues that’s on heart medication.
“They have been ordered to take care of these animals,” Parrish said. “I hope they did.”