National website directs attention to district attorney

Published 8:45 pm Monday, March 14, 2005

District Attorney Steve Billy has been in office less than two months, but he's already getting nation-wide attention.
People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals (PETA) picked up a recent news story about a year-long Escambia County Sheriff's Department investigation that led to the arrest of a county residentsinvolved in hog/dog rodeos, in which spectators are charged an entry fee to watch individual matches where a hog is released into a pen and a dog is timed to see how long it takes for the dog to "catch" the hog.
Now, the organization's web site urges activists to write letters to the local district attorney.
PETA's members are paying attention.
Sammy Ray Portwood was charged with cruelty to animals by the Escambia County Sheriff's Department.
PETA casework division manager Martin Mersereau, in a letter written to Billy last week and provided to The Standard, wrote, "Mental-health professional s and top law-enforcement officials consider all forms of cruelty to animals to be a red flag. The American Psychiatric Association identifies cruelty to animals as one of the diagnostic criteria for conduct disorders, and the FBI uses reports of animal abuse in analyzing the threat potential of suspected and known criminals.
Billy said that pit bull fighting is an even more serious problem in the county than the hog/dog rodeos, and that his office is working with the Humane Society of Escambia County to combat that problem.