When Joe Berlin assumed the role of sheriff, he promised that he would be sheriff, not a Facebook TV star.
The case of Miranda Kittrell and her arrest on 39 counts of animal cruelty certainly shows the difference between his way of law enforcement and that of the previous administration.
In August, the Jones County Sheriff’s Department, with the assistance of Hattiesburg-based Southern Pines Animal Shelter, responded to a call of animal cruelty involving a one-time animal advocate named Miranda Kittrell. She has had several run-ins with the law involving animal cruelty dealing with dogs and, previously, horses.
The latest operation on Kittrell’s property drew little media attention — and no live Facebook publicity event. Only Facebook messages and a few posts alerted anyone to what was going on.
Juxtapose that with the Lyon Ranch Road Raid of 2018, when an army of Jones County Sheriff’s Department personnel from the sheriff down to auxiliary road deputies and a public relations associate descended on the property of an elderly Jones County couple. They were aided by the Humane Society of the United States and Southern Cross Animal Rescue, whose leaders appeared to orchestrate the operation by waiting nearly eight weeks from first viewing “horrific abuse” to rescuing those cats and dogs. Notice also that SCAR was seemingly left off this latest Kittrell raid, and we don’t believe that is just a coincidence. We think it was quite smart.
The Lyon Ranch Road case ended in a shameful moment for SCAR, HSUS and the sheriff’s department, with all criminal charges dropped against the couple at the center of the raid and a court order for then-Sheriff Alex Hodge and HSUS to pay $5,000 in damages for illegally seizing the couple’s five house pets.
If ever a textbook case of how NOT to run an operation against animal abuse, the Lyon Ranch Road Raid was it.
The Kittrell case showed that animal welfare — not hopes of a fundraising windfall and stroking of officials’ egos via Facebook video ruled the day — as it always should.