MEDIA RELEASE: Itawamba County Law Enforcement Called Out for “Inexcusable” Horse Shooting on Christmas Eve

MEDIA RELEASE: Itawamba County Law Enforcement Called Out for “Inexcusable” Horse Shooting on Christmas Eve

Itawamba County, Miss. (December 29, 2020) – In Defense of Animals, an international animal protection organization that operates Hope Animal Sanctuary and the Justice for Animals campaign in Carroll County, is calling for disciplinary action for the inexcusable shooting of a 10-year-old girl’s horse on Christmas Eve by a member of law enforcement in Itawamba County.

In Defense of Animals is asking Itawamba County Sheriff Chris Dickenson to establish a protocol for his department to address stray “livestock” and animal cruelty cases. Other Mississippi counties partner with humane organizations, and cattle and horse handlers. In Defense of Animals has relationships with horse rescuers in Itawamba County, including one who is certified for equine and bovine rescue, but none were contacted in this case.

On Christmas Eve, Goldie, a horse given to 10-year-old Grace Pierce for Christmas got loose and strayed a mile and a half from the Pierce’s property at 2156 Justice Road.

Austin Will Mann and his wife and child were traveling Interstate 22, spotted Goldie and stopped to help. Mr. Mann had calmed Goldie when a deputy arrived. Mr. Mann offered to fashion a halter to catch Goldie and was advised to leave. The law enforcement officer stated that he had the situation under control.

Mr. Mann and his family left the scene before Goldie was fatally, and unnecessarily, shot by a law enforcement officer.

Which law enforcement officer shot Goldie is unknown. Jake Gasaway, the person who sold Goldie to the Pierce family, told In Defense of Animals that his son passed the scene, unaware that Goldie had been shot. He wondered what had happened as there were two Itawamba County vehicles and a Highway Patrol vehicle on the scene.

What is known is that Goldie was not in the road, or posing a danger to passing vehicles, when she was shot with a 12-gage shotgun, and was not the three miles away from home that law enforcement claimed. The weapon was revealed by an unnamed Itawamba County dispatcher.

Gruesome photos of Goldie’s body from the scene show  that she was shot in the head at close range, indicating that she was not running and could have been contained. If Goldie were shot from a distance her face and neck would have been impacted by a blast from a shotgun.

“How tragically ironic it is that Goldie was shot on Justice Road by law enforcement,” said Doll Stanley, In Defense of Animals’ Justice for Animals campaign director. “This has been devastating for the Pierces who are suffering the violent and shocking loss of a much-loved family member at the hands of those who are charged to serve and protect the community. I work with law enforcement in multiple Mississippi counties that have a call list of volunteers who will aid with stray cattle and equines. Itawamba County Officers actively rejected assistance to catch Goldie, revealing they had no intent of humanely returning her to her family. They then went on to dump her body and have another department clean up the mess. This was a disgraceful and inexcusable act of cruelty and abuse of power which deserves swift disciplinary action. I invite Itawamba County Sheriff to work with In Defense of Animals to establish a protocol to properly address future animal cases.”

The Department of Transportation was called to move Goldie. She was found at the bottom of the hill in a ravine, a violation of Mississippi Board of Animal Health (MBAH) regulations. In Defense of Animals has placed a call to the MBAH asking that the agency see Goldie is properly and respectfully buried.


Contact: Doll Stanley,, (662) 809-4483 



In Defense of Animals has served animals and communities in the Deep South for 27 years. The organization carries out educational initiatives and directly rescues and rehomes abused, neglected and homeless animals through its Hope Animal Sanctuary in Carroll County, Mississippi. Its Justice for Animals campaign aids law enforcement and courts to prevent, investigate and prosecute animal cruelty, and works with legislators to both create and improve animal protection laws.

In Defense of Animals is an international animal protection organization with over 250,000 supporters and a 37-year history of protecting animals’ rights, welfare, and habitats through education, campaigns, and its hands-on rescue facilities in India, South Korea, and rural Mississippi.