Inmate files federal lawsuit seeking $85,000 for lost dog

awomack@macon.comJuly 11, 2014 

It’s a doggone shame.

A prison inmate who says his dog was lost while he was jailed in 2013 has filed a federal lawsuit seeking $85,000.

Ray Roger Rivers is now serving a 15-year sentence for drug trafficking. He and his girlfriend were pulled over on Ga. 18 in Jones County on May 28, 2013. The family dog, Marley, was in the car, according to Rivers’ lawsuit, filed this week in U.S. District Court.

After the stop, Rivers, his girlfriend and Marley were taken to the Jones County jail.

Rivers’ girlfriend and the dog were put in a holding cell together. At some point, Jones County Animal Control was called to pick up the pet.

Rivers contends that he and his girlfriend “pleaded” with a Jones County deputy to allow them to call someone to pick up the dog, to no avail.

An animal control officer picked up Marley early the next day. Officer Michael Harrell said the pug mix was wearing a harness when it came to the shelter. Staffers took off the harness after a loop on it snagged in a grate in an indoor run.

When a staffer took Marley outside for a walk, it was outfitted with a collar and a leash. During the walk, the staffer noticed that the dog had an ingrown toenail that was causing it to limp, Harrell said.

The dog became “spooked” while being examined and pulled away, yanking its head through the collar. The dog ran across the road and through a pasture. Animal control workers set traps and searched for the dog with deputies but were unable to find it.

Rivers says his girlfriend also searched for Marley.

“The plaintiff can not stress enough at how much this loss has affected and harmed himself and his family, as Marley, the dog, was much a loved family member,” Rivers said in his hand-written complaint.

Chief Deputy Barbara Burnette said it’s sheriff’s office policy to call animal control when someone is brought in with a dog in the car.

“We can’t bring them here, and we can’t leave them on the side of the road in a hot car,” she said.

Harrell said animals are held for 30 days before they become county property.

Rivers’ lawsuit names the Jones County Drug Task Force, the sheriff’s office and animal control.

He alleges that the three agencies abused their discretion, committed “wanton and willful misconduct,” failed to prevent harm and inflicted malicious injury.

Rivers is representing himself in the case.

To contact writer Amy Leigh Womack, call 744-4398.

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