DeKalb County Solicitor Robert James said he intends to aggressively prosecute a contractor, hired to mark gas lines, who allegedly sprayed florescent orange paint on a barking black lab mix that was in a fenced backyard.
"To spray paint a dog in the eye makes no sense," James said Wednesday, a day after Dario Harris was in DeKalb County State Court on two counts of animal cruelty, a charge that could mean as much as 12 months in jail.
"It was gratuitous. The animal was behind a fence. Its really something we take serious and were going to try to make this thing right," said James, who prosecutes misdemeanors in DeKalb. "We're going to take this very seriously."
Harris was dispatched last March to mark gas lines in preparation for scheduled digging along the residential street in Stone Mountain.
Jeffrey Tompkins, who was working at home, heard his dog, Bear, barking about 8:30 or 9 a.m. and then saw a truck driving away. A few minutes later, he found his dog rubbing her eyes with her front paws.
Tompkins said there were "seven individual spray marks" low on the fence about the height of the dog's eyes.
"It wasn't like he just sprayed one time across [ the fence]," Tompkins said in an interview Wednesday. "He [Harris] went up to the fence. He had no reason to go in the backyard."
The area along the road where Harris was working was 80-120 feet from the fence that encircled Tompkins' backyard. The gas meter from the house was about 12 feet from the fence, but the work that day should not have included the meter, according to Tompkins.
During an interview, Harris said he "reacted to the dog coming to the gate and scaring me. It wasn't anything intentional. I wasn't out to do any harm. I was just doing my job."
Harris said he feared the dog.
"The dog was tall enough to jump the fence. It was a 50-50 chance he would," Harris said. "I love dogs... I was just trying to protect myself."
James said that argument didn't make sense.
"He would have to go over to the dog, and if one was afraid of a dog he wouldn't have gone over. It's a senseless act ... without any level of empathy or feelings for another being," the solicitor said.
Tompkins said Bear, a stray he found with five other new-born puppies four years ago, was not a threat, especially since the dog was behind a fence.
"I admit the dog was barking at him real good," Tompkins said. "She's not dangerous but she's going to bark... To me, it [spraying paint] was malicious."
A vet flushed Bear's eyes and provided antibiotics, and Harris said he would repay Tompkins for those expenses.
"This is making me out to be a criminal," Harris said. "I'm not."
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