DECATUR — A Decatur man charged with allowing his dog to freeze to death said Monday he had done his best to take care of the animal despite not having a permanent place to live himself.
Shamar Q. Dawson, 23, told the Herald & Review he isn’t trying to evade responsibility for the fate of the dead pit bull named Mary Jane, who was found frozen to death in her doghouse Jan. 9.
“At the end of the day they (my pets) are my responsibility,” said Dawson. “But anybody who knows me knows how I felt about them. I don’t have kids but they are like my kids.”
A public defender was appointed to represent Dawson when he appeared Friday in Macon County Circuit Court for a preliminary hearing. Dawson's attorney could not be reached for comment Monday. His next court date is March 6.
Dawson, who said he has not entered a formal plea on a Class A misdemeanor charge of animal cruelty, said Mary Jane and his other pit bull, “Gee,” were both being looked after by a friend. Gee is still alive.
He said the friend agreed to care for the dogs because Dawson encountered difficult financial circumstances, had to move out of his home, and was moving between different addresses. But he said any idea he just turned his back on the animals is wrong.
“You ask anybody who knows me, I went to check on those dogs at least once and sometimes twice a day,” he said. “There have been some days when they ate, and I didn’t … That is no exaggeration.”
Macon County Animal Control officers have said Mary Jane had been dead for two weeks. Temperatures during late December and early January had dropped well below freezing each night, hitting a low of minus 16 degrees on Jan. 1, according to data from the National Weather Service in Lincoln.
Dawson disputed that the dog had been dead that long. “It hadn’t been 24 hours, a complete day, since I had last checked on her, I promise you that,” he said.
Macon County State’s Attorney Jay Scott said Monday that Dawson is the only person charged in the case. Attempts to reach Macon County Animal Control for comment were unsuccessful Monday, a state holiday for Lincoln's birthday.
Dawson does not dispute another part of the allegations against him, which said he dragged the doghouse containing the dog to another location.
Dawson said when he found out the dog was dead he didn’t know what to do with the body. He insisted he wasn’t anticipating a charge of animal cruelty and wasn’t trying to cover it up.
“To be honest, I never knew enough about animal cruelty to even know I could actually be punished,” he said. “I was just in shock and didn’t know what to do with her.”
Dawson said he doesn’t blame the friend looking after the dog for what happened and said it was a tragic result of intensely cold weather at the time.
Asked if the friend had been cruel to his pet, he replied: “No, no, no — they are not that type of people, man. They were looking out for me, they helped me, and I appreciate that.”