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Animal worker denies charges

Testifying before an outside arbitrator Tuesday, fired animal control employee Henry Booth denied several allegations made against him and offered explanations for others.

When arbitrator Arthur Van Wart asked Booth whether he thought other animal control employees had created a plot to get rid of him, Booth said yes.

Citrus County fired Booth in September following a series of complaints against the 10-year employee. He is seeking reinstatement and back wages. Van Wart said he expects to make a ruling in about two months.

Here's how Booth responded to some of the charges:

He denied speaking with a woman who the county alleges called the animal shelter in July and was told by Booth that her missing dog wasn't there, even though he knew it was. The dog later was put to death.

"I had no contact with that lady," Booth said Tuesday. "I had no contact that I know of."

He denied directing subordinates to fill out a false report indicating that a vicious Rottweiler had been put to death when, in fact, he had helped arrange its release. The subordinates were the ones who suggested finding someone to take the dog instead of killing it, Booth said.

He said he didn't recall speaking with a woman who says that Booth assured her the Rottweiler would be killed. The dog had killed the woman's Chihuahua, a fact Booth said he wasn't aware of until he heard it during testimony Monday.

He admitted to urinating outside while on duty, explaining that he needed to urinate and didn't think anyone else was around. "I did it behind the truck with the tailgate down," he said.

Regarding a charge that he threw rocks at a subordinate from the roof of the animal shelter, Booth said he was cleaning off the roof and didn't know anyone was below.

Shelter technician Susan Aisner said Monday she saw Booth handling a dog with a catch pole, a long metal pole with a loop to hold an animal by its neck. The dog had a blue tongue and gums and later had a broken neck, she said.

Asked why he didn't use a tranquilizer dart on a dog, Booth replied that the darts were a relatively new technique at the shelter at the time. "We just didn't think about it," he said.

Noting each contradiction between Booth's testimony and that of other witnesses, Assistant County Attorney Richard Wesch asked Booth each time whether the other witness must have been lying.

"Well, call it whatever," Booth replied, indicating that he stood by his version of events.

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