William Gunn, a 23-year-old inmate at the Upson County Jail, faces a new charge of cruelty to animals after allegedly bludgeoning a puppy to death while working as a trustee at the Upson County Animal Shelter.
Major Dan Kilgore of the Upson County Sheriff’s Office, said his office was notified of the March 13 incident by Smart Webb, the shelter’s director.
According to Kimberly Davis, who identified herself as Gunn’s fiancé, the trustee struck the dog because it did not die after receiving euthanasia drugs.
“The puppy was given the drugs, but it came back to life,” she said. “On the way out to the incinerator, it started yelping and jerking and stuff like that. He didn’t know what to do, so he whopped it and put it out of its misery.”
Kilgore said Gunn initially claimed to have struck the puppy with a brick, but upon the responding deputy’s arrival, he noted a bloodied ax handle, which Gunn later acknowledged he had utilized to kill the animal.
“Instead of taking it back inside so more of the euthanasia drug could be given, he took it upon himself to kill the dog himself,” Kilgore said. “Essentially, he had to be charged. Even though the animal was being euthanized, that was a cruel act.”
Davis said Gunn did not realize he had done anything wrong, an assertion she claims is bolstered by the fact that the act was not witnessed by the shelter staff, who would have been unaware of the incident had Gunn not immediately informed them of what had taken place.
“Yes, he (Gunn) told what happened, but how do you not think it’s cruel to beat a puppy to death?” Kilgore countered.
Davis also complained that Gunn “wasn’t even supposed to be there,” and that as an animal lover, it was “hard for him to be there and see all that.”
However, Kilgore explained that Gunn, who was at the time of the incident serving a 120-day sentence for disorderly conduct, was slated to be there.
“He was an inmate and he was assigned to the shelter; that was his assigned task,” he said.
Upson County Manager Kyle Hood also responded to Davis’s claim that Gunn “wasn’t supposed to be there,” by saying if the trustee did not want to be assigned to the animal shelter, he had the option of speaking with the jail captain and expressing his concerns.
“There are always options,” he said. “But he certainly had no right to take matters into his own hands.”
Kilgore went on to explain that all inmates who work in the capacity as a trustee have been convicted and are in the process of serving their sentences.
“We can’t send anyone not in that capacity – under sentence – out to work,” he continued. “It’s against the law.”
Furthermore, he said that trustees are typically those individuals who have been convicted of nonviolent crimes. The Upson County Jail does not utilize inmates who are awaiting transfer into the Georgia penal system for work details, a decision made in the best interest of Upson County residents.
“You have to weigh the risk. We’re not going to put someone out there who’s a danger to the public or a flight risk,” Kilgore said.
Hood described those who work in the capacity of a trustee as “decent people” who are incarcerated on charges such as child support violations or technical violations of their parole.
“They come in and out of my own office unattended and I don’t question them,” he said. “They’re just a product of a cyclical system that once you’re in, is difficult to get out of.”
Kilgore and Hood both stated that trustee laborers receive an orientation from the department supervisor to which they’ve been assigned.
Hood added that the amount of training would be dependent upon two criteria – the length of their incarceration, as well as frequency of incarcerations and which department they’re working for, but said the trustees are primarily used for menial tasks.
“Most everything they would be used for isn’t very labor intensive or require much education,” he said. “The trustee would have had no responsibility but to transport the animal from the euthanizing area to the incinerator, and those two places aren’t very far apart.”
In response to the Gunn’s alleged act of animal cruelty, Hood said to the best of his knowledge, this is the first incident of its kind.
“In no other cases do I know of any trustee having anything to do with the euthanasia of animals,” he said. “I would consider this an isolated incident. I would not consider this as something that the citizens should be concerned about happening frequently.
“In an instance where there is animal cruelty, we will prosecute it. Smart (Webb) immediately called the Sheriff’s Office and reported the incident. He did the right thing, and Smart has my full support.”
“Part of our mission, while we’re not a humane society, is care giving. We would love to never have to put a cat or dog down, but unfortunately, it is part of our responsibility. I would hate to think what Upson County would look like if we didn’t have responsible animal control,” Hood said. “Smart has a tough job; I wouldn’t want to do it. What we do is legal, ethical and moral, but we only do it because we have to.”