Former Shelter Employee on Trial for Animal Cruelty

Former Shelter Employee on Trial for Animal Cruelty

The trial of a former Memphis Animal Shelter worker is underway. Billy Stewart is accused of choking five dogs in his care.
MEMPHIS, TN (localmemphis.com) - The trial of a former Memphis Animal Shelter worker is underway. Billy Stewart is accused of choking five dogs in his care.

Stewart insists he did nothing wrong and was only doing his job.

"'I'm gonna have to choke it out. Come on, hit the dog… nobody needs to see this. Come on, hit this one before somebody walks in.' These words are from his mouth," attorney Katie Ratton told jurors, pointing at Stewart.

Prosecutors say Billy Stewart used a catch pole to choke dogs.

"Whether it be because he was lazy, whether it because he was angry, whether it be because he was sadistic, none of these things matter," Ratton continued. "We don't need to know why he choked these dogs."

A Memphis police officer says he witnessed five dogs about to be euthanized were choked by Stewart. The officer was working an undercover operation at the shelter. During his testimony, the office described what happened to one dog.

"At this point you can see the animal react to the tightness of the pole, by it jumping up with his neck and so he just held that position for several minutes until the dog collapsed."

Stewart's lawyer says the former worker didn't commit animal cruelty. Instead, he pointed fingers at the city, saying the shelter has been troubled for years.

"The question you're going to have at the end of the day is, when in the world are we as citizens of Memphis and Shelby County going to require that the people who are in charge, the people who say 'we care,' are going to stop playing the blame game and do something about it?" posed attorney Paul Stringer.

Last fall, two of Stewart's former co-workers pleaded guilty to similar charges, including Frank Lightfoot. Lightfoot is expected to testify against Stewart later this week.

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