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Bouland found guilty in vicious animal case

BY HAWKINS TEAGUE The Mayfield Messenger

MAYFIELD -- Although Chris Bouland will not serve jail time for harboring vicious animals, a contempt of court charge and another pending trial mean his legal troubles are far from over.

Bouland was charged with harboring a vicious animal after his pit bulls attacked Mitchell Slayden in Farmington on July 2, 2016. On Friday, a jury found Bouland guilty, but did not sentence him to any jail time. Although Graves County Attorney John Cunningham asked the jury for the maximum sentence of 60 days in jail, the jury instead sentenced him to pay a $200 fine.

In his opening statement, Cunningham said Slayden was mentally challenged and was not able to drive a car, which was the reason he was riding a bicycle the day the attack occurred. Slayden testified that his cousin used to live at the address where Bouland lived in July, and he thought she still lived there when he rode his bike there that morning to visit her and see her baby. He said he did not see the dogs when he arrived at Bouland's trailer, and he left his bike lying on the ground after the dogs began trying to bite his pant leg.

Cunningham said that for someone to be charged with harboring a vicious animal, the attack has to occur off the animal owner's property. He said that although the dogs might have begun attacking Slayden on Bouland's property, that didn't matter because the majority of his injuries happened in a ditch across the road.

"Each time they bit him was a new attack â ¦ I'm not asking you to find Mr. Bouland guilty of anything for any type of pant leg attack on his property, but the minute those dogs left the property and did this, he's criminally liable," Cunningham said.

Slayden said the dogs bit his legs, arms and head. He said he also had to have several skin grafts because of the injuries to his scalp. Since the injuries were life-threatening, Slayden was immediately flown by helicopter to Vanderbilt University Medical Center in Nashville, Tennessee, Cunningham said.

Bouland's public defender, Stephanie Powell, said she could not deny that Bouland's dogs attacked Slayden, but this did not mean he had committed a crime. She said Bouland felt very bad about what had happened to Slayden, but argued he should not be held legally responsible because the attack happened while Slayden was on Bouland's property.

"Mr. Slayden might have a civil suit against Christopher Bouland, but that doesn't make Christopher Bouland criminally responsible for what happened," Powell said.

Cunningham said that while he is glad Bouland was found guilty, he is disappointed that the dogs are still alive because he believed they are still a danger to others. He said he had offered Bouland a $100 fine and 30 days probation if he agreed to forfeit the dogs, but he refused the offer.

Powell said that while she was hoping for a not guilty verdict, she was happy that Bouland would only have to pay a fine and that the dogs would be released to him if he meets the court's conditions for release.

Immediately after the jury was dismissed, District Judge Deborah Hawkins Crooks issued a ruling on the contempt of court charge against Bouland and continued the pretrial conference for another harboring a vicious animal charge for 10:30 a.m. April 17.

Following the initial charge in July, Crooks released the dogs to Bouland in November on the conditions that they be kept out of Graves County, be kept inside and be muzzled and leashed whenever they had to leave the residence for any reason. After Bouland had a dispute with a neighbor, the Graves County Sheriff's Office discovered that Bouland had the dogs with him in the Wingo area. He was arrested again and charged with contempt of court and harboring a vicious animal.

Crooks gave Bouland 30 days to prove that the dogs were properly enclosed in a structure at least 7 feet high outside of Graves County. If he cannot get such an enclosure inspected in that time period, the dogs will be euthanized, she said.

Bouland will have until October to pay $325 for the contempt charge and must pay for the costs of boarding the dogs at the Mayfield/Graves County Animal Shelter until the court releases them.

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