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Judge: Dogs seized from alleged puppy mill must be made available for vet exams

The prosecution and those who adopted dogs seized in a raid on an alleged puppy mill here March 13 lost round one in Lamar superior court Thursday when senior Judge Wade Crumbley ordered all the animals be made available for examination by a veterinarian. ******************** NOTICE: This story and photo(s) are under copyright. They may not be republished or disseminated in any form or format – including social media – without explicit permission. ********************* Judge Crumbley, of Henry County, noted repeatedly that he was ‘pinch hitting’ for Judge Bill Fears. Attorney Johnnie Caldwell Jr., who represents the owners of the alleged puppy mill John David and Latitia Matthews, argued for a preliminary hearing and the inspection of the animals. The state’s case was presented by special prosecutor Jessica Rock of Norcross. Caldwell noted some dogs were described differently in supposedly identical warrants against each of the Matthews. “These people don’t know how to defend themselves on this,” Caldwell said. He cited case law that establishes “defendants get to examine physical evidence if they have the means to do so.” ”So, you are going to hire a vet,” the judge asked. ”Yes, and we will go to where the dogs are. We have a right to look at these dogs,” Caldwell replied. Rock countered that the Matthews had an attorney on their property during the later stages of the raid there March 13-14. “He examined and photographed the animals. He met with his clients and they agreed to relinquish these animals. This is still an ongoing investigation. It is not reasonable for us to hold live evidence,” Rock argued. She termed Caldwell’s intentions a “fishing expedition”. ”This evidence is no longer going to be in the same condition. These dogs have been treated for internal parasites, malnutrition and matting. They are not in the same state they were two months ago,” Rock added, arguing Caldwell’s motion was not timely. Caldwell noted his motion was filed within two weeks of the raid. He also alleged the ‘attorney’ on the scene was a family friend and had never agreed to represent the defendants. Rock said she would attempt to comply with whatever the judge ordered but would have serious problems with John David Matthews and Latitia Matthews having knowledge of who adopted the dogs and where they are now. In the end, Judge Crumbley ordered the state to turn over the locations of the dogs and the names of the new owners to Caldwell and he was to share it only with the veterinarian or veterinarians hired to do the exams. For much more on this story, see the 5.14.19 print edition of The Herald Gazette.

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