On Tuesday, a 32-year-old who initiated dog fights was found guilty by a jury of 12 men and women and sentenced to three years in custody of the Mississippi Department of Corrections.
It is not harsh enough of a sentence for such behavior.
Push Seaberry was sentenced to the three years because the statute at the time of his arrest had a maximum penalty of three years. In July 2018, the penalties were enhanced to a maximum of five years in prison, a sentence that Judge Dal Williamson lamented that he could not give Seaberry. There is little doubt Seaberry would have gotten the maximum penalty. His actions in regard to those dogs were horrific and the maximum sentence warranted.
Animal advocates for years prodded and pleaded with state Legislatures to not only strengthen dog-fighting penalties but also those for the most heinous acts of animal cruelty.
Those efforts have been defeated nearly every legislative session, a move that this newspaper has decried each time it happens. We believe that true animal abusers — the worst — deserve to be charged with a felony and prosecuted as such.
But then July 11, 2018 happened when an overzealous rescue organization and a sheriff’s department with a thirst for national publicity perpetrated an injustice on two senior citizens, one suffering severe health problems, in a raid on their property on Lyon Ranch Road.
The owner of the property, who had a history of providing sanctuary for animals in horrific conditions, had 88 dogs and cats seized and their property locked down for hours by local and national animal rescue groups — and the long arm of Sheriff Alex Hodge’s department.
The whereabouts of many of those dogs and their conditions continue to be a mystery. The Humane Society of the United States referred all questions to the sheriff’s department, which has refused to answer questions about the location or well-being of any of those dogs.
When the judicial process plays out — the misdemeanor case Hodge treated as if it were the crime of the century, is set to be heard in December — we are confident that the two charged will be found to be at the most hoarders, but far from the monsters they have been portrayed as.
When January comes around and the new legislative term begins, we are certain a bill will be introduced to enhance all animal cruelty charges. Those legislators will then — or at least should — then take a long look at the injustice showed toward those two senior citizens and have pause. Those two — one a Purple Heart recipient war hero — could be facing severe prison time.
In the end, the raid on Lyon Ranch Road will do more to cripple those legislative efforts then actually leading to the enhanced prosecution of real animal abusers. When those efforts do fail, we can lay that failure at the feet of the Good Sheriff for his publicity antics and persecution of two law-abiding, quiet residents of Jones County.