Rockdale deputy removed from K-9 unit after 3 of his dogs died

Credit: Channel 2 Action News

Credit: Channel 2 Action News

Sheriff’s office says search warrant revealed unsanitary conditions, improper disposal of the dogs

A Rockdale County deputy was removed from the K-9 unit in August after an animal cruelty investigation was launched when his personal dogs died, the sheriff’s office said Wednesday.

Eric Tolbert’s assigned K-9 was removed from his home and he was placed on administrative leave with pay after authorities began the investigation July 5. It was prompted by a social media post about Tolbert’s three dogs dying from heat exhaustion, the sheriff’s office confirmed.

A search warrant was executed to investigate the living conditions and death of Tolbert’s dogs, which revealed unsanitary conditions and improper disposal of the dead dogs that violated state law, according to the sheriff’s office. Tolbert’s K-9, however, was in good condition and was reassigned to a new handler.

Investigators attempted to arrest Tolbert and charge him with animal cruelty, but the sheriff’s office said judges refused to sign the warrant, citing lack of probable cause and a conflict of interest since the sheriff’s office was investigating the incident instead of the GBI.

According to the sheriff’s office, the District Attorney’s Office also declined to prosecute the case, arguing there was a lack of evidence.

The criminal investigation was then closed and an internal administrative investigation was conducted.

Tolbert was found to have violated two of the sheriff’s office policies: code of conduct to abide by all laws, and the canine handler conduct. He received a 32-hour suspension without pay and lost his spot on the K-9 unit Aug. 10, according to the agency.