Protestors rally for dogs shot to death
Charges not yet filed in animal abuse case
More than 100 people from the local area and neighboring states gathered at the entrance to Paradise Cove Camping Resort on Saturday, protesting for justice to be delivered in the case of three dogs that were shot to death and mutilated near the property.
Protestors chanted, "No justice, no peace" and "We want justice," holding up signs saying things like, "Justice for Gus, Tug and Kaycee," "Only cowards kill animals," "These were not just dogs, they were family members" and "Their pain, their suffering, their cries."
Dani Johnson, who with her husband Sam Johnson attended the event, had a sign with pictures of her two black labs, Gus, 7, and Tug, 11 months, as well as her yellow lab, Kaycee, 3. Her sign read, "We are not 'just animals.' We have souls."
"Upwards of 100 protesters showed up, not only for our fur babies, but animals everywhere," Johnson wrote in a Facebook following the event. "It's a fight for stronger sentences for those who abuse animals. [If] an animal crosses into your property you don't want there, [and we are] not sure they even did that, you fire warning shots in the air. You do not brutally shoot to make them suffer, multiple times. You wouldn't gut shoot or shoot their genitalia in a sick sadistic manner."
Johnson said she made a report with the Barry County Sheriff's Office shortly after the dogs were found, piled together and with their collars cut off. She said Gus was subjected to multiple shots to the stomach and more repeated shots in his genitals.
As of Tuesday, possible charges in the case remain pending in Barry County Prosecutor Amy Boxx's office. Probable cause statements recommending charges were delivered to her office on March 26. Boxx responded to an email Tuesday afternoon.
“As of today, ‘charges have not yet been filed’ would be accurate,” she said.
Calls to the Cassville Democrat office and comments on social media have asked if the Corps of Engineers should be involved in the case if the shooting happened on federal lake property, but Miles Brown, chief of public affairs for the Little Rock District of the Corps of Engineers, said according to the project manager at Table Rock Lake, the incident occurred on a campground not leased from the Corps.
"No part of that facility is on publicly or federally owned land," Brown said. "That resort is all on private property adjacent to the lake."
Brown said even if the land was publicly owned, jurisdiction remains with local and state authorities.
"Even if it happened on the lake itself or in a Corps park, we would call the local sheriff's office or Missouri State Highway Patrol," he said. "Our rangers are not law enforcement officers. They are there only to enforce Corps policies. It would be the sheriff's office or the state who bring charges, just like if there's a boating accident involving a DWI, the Highway Patrol would bring charges.
"Even homicide of a person on federal land would be prosecuted by state authorities."
Since Johnson has shared her story, social media reactions have come in from across the country and internationally.
A petition on thepetitionsite.com titled "Demand Justice for 3 Dogs shot at Paradise Cove Camping Resort" has received more than 126,000 signatures from more than 30 countries. There is also a public Facebook group named "Justice For Gus and All" that has nearly 350 likes. Johnson's Facebook post on her personal page March 13, calling for help finding her dogs, received more than 620 shares.
The protestors are planning another event Saturday, from noon to 2 p.m. at the Barry County Judicial Center.