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Owner files $1 million lawsuit after being forced to decapitate dog

A Crawford County couple filed a lawsuit Thursday for damages sustained when they say officials forced them to decapitate their dog and take the head to the health department.

Joe Goodwin and Tosha Dacon are suing the county, Sheriff Lewis Walker and deputies James Hollis and Wesley Andrew Neesmith for $1 million in connection with the Dec. 1 incident, attorney Reza Sedghi told The Atlanta Journal-Constitution.

“Under extreme emotional duress and distress, and under threat of incarceration and physical harm, Plaintiff Goodwin was forced to decapitate the dog with a knife,” the lawsuit states.  

MORE: Owner said deputy forced him to cut off dog’s head for rabies test

Neesmith responded to a complaint about a pit bull-type dog that allegedly bit a neighbor on Wellington Drive. While Goodwin was at work, his 2-year-old dog, Big Boy, allegedly lunged at Neesmith, who shot and killed the dog, The AJC previously reported.

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Shortly thereafter, Hollis arrived and told Goodwin he’d have to cut the dead dog’s head off for rabies testing or face arrest, according to the lawsuit. Goodwin felt compelled to proceed and decapitated his pet in front of his children.

Afterward, Goodwin was “too emotionally and mentally distraught to comply and, therefore, Plaintiff Dacon was required to do so,” the lawsuit states. 

HEALTH OFFICIAL: Owners should not remove a dog’s head for rabies testing

In addition to the “great physical and mental pain and suffering,” which has required counseling, Goodwin lost his job as a result of the actions, the lawsuit states. 

“He’s been so traumatized from this it’s hard to even put a number on it,” Sedghi said.

Hollis, who was previously fired from the Zebulon Police Department, was placed on administrative leave with pay during an internal investigation, according to the Macon Telegraph.

MORE: Petition calls for firing of Georgia cop who forced owner to ‘cut off his dog’s head’

Goodwin said on his Facebook page he regrets following the orders, but did as he was told because he was afraid of being shot or taken to jail. He also didn’t think he could afford having a professional remove Big Boy’s head for a fee, The AJC previously reported.

According to Walker, who is named in the suit, Goodwin was advised by the county health department about the options regarding the decapitation and testing.

“I can’t recall something like this (case) ever,” Sedghi said. “It’s so outrageous that I just can’t image how anyone would feel in his position.”

The case has sparked considerable attention locally and nationally.

“People have been really upset about what this officer did,” Sedghi said.

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