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County animal worker decried

In April, a Citrus County Animal Control employee told Gwendolyn Scott that the Rottweiler that had broken into her screen room and mauled her long-haired chihuahua to death would be put to sleep.

Five months later, she read a newspaper article that said the same employee had been fired for allowing a vicious dog to leave the shelter in April and telling other workers to say the dog had been destroyed.

Her worst fears were confirmed. County officials say the female Rottweiler had been spared and given to a man known only as "Sammy," who they believe lives in Levy County.

"Somebody had definitely lied to my family, and I'd like to see that dog found and put to sleep," a sometimes tearful Mrs. Scott said during a hearing Monday for the fired Animal Control employee, Henry Booth.

The Rottweiler incident was one of several reasons cited by the county for firing Booth, a 10-year employee of Animal Control. On Monday, an outside arbitrator began hearing his case to determine whether Booth's firing in September was justified.

Booth is hoping to get back his job and back pay.

The other allegations include harassment of subordinates, trying to coax a dog off private property so he could seize it, urinating on someone's lawn while trying to pick up a cat, and telling a woman that her missing dog was not at the shelter when he knew it was. The dog later was killed.

At the hearing, two Animal Control employees told the arbitrator that they considered Booth a "cold-hearted snake" whose treatment of animals at the shelter had been "brutal."

Shelter technician Susan Aisner said she saw Booth use a catch pole, a pole with a loop at the end that goes around the animal's neck, on a dog that was to be killed. The dog's gums and tongue were blue, she said.

When she returned, the dog was dead with a broken neck and blood coming out of its mouth, she said. The dog should have been chemically immobilized with a dart gun instead of handled with a catch pole, she said.

Booth, who declined to comment after Monday's proceedings, is expected to testify before the arbitrator today.

After the hearing, both sides will have time to file briefs on the case. The arbitrator, Arthur Van Wart of Brooksville, said he probably would make a decision in about two months.