Inside Report for Jan. 11, 2013

ATC head embroiled in pet issue

By Michelle Millhollon

Capitol bureau

Normally, state Alcohol and Tobacco Control Commissioner Troy Hebert makes headlines for trimming expenses or catching his employees shaving hours from their workday.

“(I’m) putting out fires. I feel like a fireman,” he said more than a year after assuming the job of overseeing the regulation of alcoholic beverage and tobacco industries.

Christmas Eve delivered a different kind of inferno — one that involved the police, social media and threats of civil litigation, according to a police report, Facebook postings and Hebert.

Hebert said he and his wife own a Great Dane puppy named T-Girl. He said they also are building a house on South Lakeshore Drive.

On Dec. 24, according to a police report, Angie Brumfield, of Denham Springs, spotted the dog in the unfinished house while taking pictures of a Christmas display on the front porch. Brumfield said in an interview that the puppy looked underweight and limped. According to the police report, she opened a window, scooped up the dog and took her home.

The next day, according to the Internet advertisement, Brumfield went on Craigslist and posted: “Found great dane near LSU lakes ... Baton Rouge beach area to be exact. Please call or email to identify.”

On Dec. 26, according to the police report, Brumfield took the dog to her vet, who discovered a microchip identifying T-Girl’s owner as Hebert. Brumfield then relinquished T-Girl to Hebert’s vet, according to the police report.

The entire episode might have ended there were it not for Facebook.

According to her Facebook page, Brumfield posted a picture of T-Girl that was shared 33 times. In the photo posted on her Facebook page, the dog’s ribs and hipbones are apparent.

According to her Facebook page, she captioned the picture with: “See this dog in the picture? She was found emaciated, near death, flea infested and has hip dysplasia so severe that she cannot walk.”

In her Facebook posting, Brumfield identified T-Girl’s owners. According to the police report, Hebert called the police the next day after a friend saw the post and alerted him.

According to the police report, the Baton Rouge Police Department investigated and issued a misdemeanor summons to Brumfield for unlawful entry onto premises and unauthorized use of a movable. Brumfield said in an interview that she plans to plead not guilty and ask for a jury trial.

Brumfield, who owns two rescue dogs, said in an interview that the staff at her vet clinic were astonished at the puppy’s condition.

“I had no idea someone owned this dog,” she said in an interview. “It looked like it was about to die.”

Hebert said in an interview that the puppy is suffering, but not from neglect. He said in the interview that the dog has a severe hip disorder that has caused anguish for his family.

“Sadly, after this woman stole her, she only got worse. We are not certain what this woman did to her, but we are certain that whatever she did caused our dog more harm,” he said.

Hebert said by email that he plans to pursue civil legal action against Brumfield for harming his dog and spreading lies.

Hebert said in an interview that the dog had plenty of food and water as well as blankets and cushions. He said in an interview that he checked on the dog daily while he and his family lived elsewhere during the construction of their new home.

“My wife and kids are distraught over the situation,” he said. In the police report, Hebert’s vet attributed the dog’s dramatic weight loss to her medical condition. Brumfield said in an interview that she is not convinced. “They’re neglecting the dog,” she said.

Hebert said by email that his wife and six children are saddened that a stranger would break into their house on Christmas Eve and steal their puppy.

“Though the veterinarian said she was suffering from a hip disorder she was hanging in there,” he said by email.

Michelle Millhollon covers the governor’s office and state budget issues for The Advocate. She can be reached at mmillhollon@theadvocate.com.