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County residents accuse neighbor of killing 12 dogs

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The Ellis County Press

ELLIS COUNTY - Torture a dog, you go to prison. Shoot and kill 12 of them, and nothing happens.

At least that's what Mark Hoyle believes. Hoyle, a rural Rankin resident, said his neighbor has shot and killed at least 12 dogs over a span of two years.

And still, Hoyle said, the Ellis County Sheriff's Department has done nothing about Daren Rivers.

'If it were me, they'd put me in jail and do something with me later,' Hoyle, 48, said. 'They're [ECSO] letting him [Rivers] run around like some god.'

However, the only thing the sheriff's department can legally bust Rivers for, according to Hoyle and investigators, is for waiving a 12-gauge shotgun - the same gun Hoyle said Rivers used for the dog killings --at him.

Sheriff officials said there is more.

'In order for us to file charges, we're going to have to know about it [killings],' said Lt. Danny Williams. 'We have had no confirmed reports in two years of this happening. No one has come forward.'

And Hoyle said he fears Rivers might have state law on his side.

Because of a pet leash law, Hoyle said Rivers can legally shoot stray animals if they find themselves on his property - Hoyle and other residents in the small community south of Bardwell said no dog of theirs has ever crossed onto Rivers' property.

'Just because he's on your property, that doesn't give you a right to shoot that dog,' Williams said. 'You'll sure go to jail for it.'

One such example was Cleta Rose. Rose said she had a six-month old puppy killed by Rivers one night, after he claimed the dog growled at him on his property. Pellets from the shotgun, she said, were sprayed from behind and the dog died internally.

The dog was not wearing a leash. She said she even pulled a red wagon with the dog's body in it to show sheriff investigators.

'Dogs are not being shot on his property,' said Hoyle. 'He shot my dog like it was a trophy, and now he's going to be my trophy. He even teaches his kids how to slaughter these animals.'

Hoyle said he was walking up his road when Rivers and his children confronted him. Rivers, Hoyle said, pointed a 12-gauge at him and threatened him.

'That's all they can get him on, is pointing a gun at me,' Hoyle said. 'He's killed dogs and nothing can be done about that.'

Rivers, however, said there has only been one incident of a dog being shot, not 12 as Hoyle claimed.

And the allegation of Rivers pulling a shotgun on Hoyle is not true, he said.

'He was just crazy, and I think this all started when he had his [dog] come up missing, and he automatically assumed it was me who shot it,' Rivers said. 'And I didn't threaten him [with a shotgun]. I came out and threatened his dog, not him. I did have a gun, but I didn't threaten him with it.'

The situation appeared to get out of control, according to Rivers, when the Child Protective Services were called. Hoyle and his neighbors had said his children were being taught to treat animals cruelly, according to Rivers.

'He's starting a bunch of rumors and troubles,' Rivers said. 'I want him in jail for these false allegations.'

However, Rivers said he has not had any problems recently with Hoyle.

'After I called the sheriff's office, they advised him of the leash law and he's had his dog chained up.'

The Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals was contacted by Hoyle's neighbors numerous times, but they, too, were unreceptive.

'They said they'd come out, do an investigation, but they don't care,' said Rose.

In Texas, cruelty to animals will automatically bring a jail sentence. In some cases, the charges could amount to a third-degree felony.

Doug Rose, a 14-year-old who had his dog, Wolfie, die at the barrel of Rivers' gun, said there is one thing he would like to see have happen to his neighbor.

'I'd like to see his guns taken away from him.

'At least.'

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