By GREG JORDAN
Bluefield Daily Telegraph
Where David Huffman of Princeton goes his boxers Wayne and Whitey go with him. The dogs go with him to work and when he goes out to eat, they wait for him outside the restaurant.
The trio was rarely apart until the afternoon of Sept. 20. Mercer County animal control officers took possession of Wayne and Whitey. The reason given was cruelty to animals and abandonment, Huffman, 59, said.
“Wayne is the big one, and Whitey is the younger one,” Huffman said Monday, the day he retrieved both dogs. “They’re both males. I’ve had them both since they were infants. I got them the day they turned 6 weeks old when they could be taken from their mother. My daughter actually raises boxers and I bought them from her. Both of them are registered, have their tags and shots. They’re registered purebred boxers.”
The boxers are Huffman’s constant companions.
“They to go work with me every day and I work six days a week. I am self-employed, and I have employees. I have a residential construction business,” Huffman said Monday afternoon as work went on around him. “They’re chasing each other right now. I got a lot of people involved and I got my dogs back just a few minutes ago.”
Huffman said he routinely eats dinner at local restaurants and leaves Wayne and Whitey tied up outside. On Sept. 20, they were at the Texas Steakhouse in Princeton.
“I usually go, me and a couple of guys, to Texas Steakhouse or one of the other restaurants and have dinner,” he said, adding the restaurants he visits have large grassy areas where the dogs will not get into traffic and have shade. Huffman said he also leaves a water dish, and he visits them periodically and brings them food.
A waitress told Huffman animal control officers were outside with his dogs. When he went outside to see what was happening, he was told the dogs would be taken to the shelter.
“They said I was not allowed to abandon those dogs and I was given an order of seizure. The reason for the seizure was cruelty to animals and abandonment,” Huffman said. “They told me that on Monday when the courthouse opened that I could go there and schedule a hearing in magistrate court. I did that and they scheduled it next Monday at 11 a.m.”
Huffman stated he was not satisfied with the situation. He had tried to visit his dogs during the weekend at the Mercer County Animal Shelter, but was not allowed to see them. His daughter and a neighbor were not allowed to visit the dogs, either.
“Over the weekend, Saturday and Sunday, I made an attempt to go and visit my dogs so they wouldn’t truly think they had been abandoned,” Huffman said. “I wasn’t satisfied with the hearing for next Monday. I didn’t want to leave those dogs in that condition for week. I went to the county commission.”
Huffman spoke with County Commission President Mike Vinciguerra, who introduced him to Assistant Prosecuting Attorney John McGinnis.
McGinnis said he met with Huffman at the county commission offices and thought the case would be accompanied by criminal charges, but none had been filed.
“I told him if he provided the necessary rabies and county tags, we would drop the animal seizure for abandonment and cruelty and we would not pursue criminal charges,” McGinnis said. “We discussed issues and ways to prevent this from happening in the future. Mr. Huffman seemed genuinely concerned; for that reason, we didn’t want to pursue any type of animal seizure.”
Under state law, a confiscated animal cannot be returned until its owner provides documentation of vaccinations and tags.
McGinnis told Huffman that when he was at a restaurant, he needed to sit in a place where he could see the dogs at all times not only for the safety of the animals, but for other people as well.
“We wouldn’t want them to get loose and run into traffic,” McGinnis said. “We want the animals to be safe and happy, and we want anyone venturing by the dogs to be safe and happy.”
Director Lisa Williams of the Mercer County Animal Shelter referred questions to County Commissioner Gene Buckner. Buckner said he did not know all the details about the case, but knew that Mercer County 911 received a call about dogs tied to a post outside the restaurant, and animal control officers went there to investigate.
Under state code, when a dog is seized and there are court infractions, the animal’s owner cannot visit it, he said.