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Donkey hanging leads to jailing of Upshur County man

Donkey hanging leads to jailing of Upshur County man

POSTED: Wednesday, July 4, 2012 - 2:00pm

UPDATED: Friday, July 6, 2012 - 11:56am

Our newspaper partner, The Longview News Journal, reports An Upshur County man accused of killing a donkey by hanging it by the neck from a tree faces up to two years in jail after his arrest Tuesday following a hearing to seize his remaining animals.

It was Anthony George Bassler’s second arrest under animal cruelty statutes.

Bassler, 35, was seen abusing the donkey two days before hanging it in the woods behind his house on Janis Street in the Camp Joy community.

Upshur County Sheriff’s Lt. Freddie Fitzgerald testified witnesses saw the donkey try to kick Bassler as he tried to tie a rope around its middle.

“And he kneed the donkey in the stomach and head,” the investigator quoted the witnesses, who two days before the donkey died had seen the animal “tied up in a manner where its front hooves were not able to touch the ground.”

Bassler told the judge one of his neighbors has had a vendetta against him for four or five years.

“There is a neighbor that loves calling the police and making things up,” he told Justice of the Peace W.V. Ray.

Bassler contended throughout Tuesday’s hearing that the donkey was dead when he tied a chain around its neck and hoisted it into the tree.

He said the animal was his second donkey to be killed by a panther, and he hung it there as bait for the predator.

A veterinarian’s report given to Ray said the donkey’s bulging eyes indicated the animal was alive when hung by its neck.

Ray refused to believe Bassler’s claim he and his wife hoisted a dead donkey onto a wagon to take it to the tree, which is on U.S. Army Corps of Engineers land off the southern shore of Lake O’ the Pines.

“You need to come up with a better story about how you loaded that donkey,” Ray told Bassler, shortly after ruling that a thinning Jennie donkey and a goat described in poor condition should be placed with the Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals of East Texas.

Bassler said his trailer held evidence he moved the donkey when it was dead.

“For this reason, I did not wash the trailer,” Bassler responded. “You can smell the carcass where I loaded it. ... I raised it (on a hoist) and backed the wagon under.”

“No, you didn’t,” Ray said.

Upshur County Sheriff’s Capt. Gary Roberts and Fitzgerald handcuffed Bassler when the hearing ended. He was placed minutes later in the county jail under a charge of cruelty to livestock animals.

The state jail felony is punishable by 180 days to two years in jail and a fine of up to $10,000.

In addition to losing the two animals in Tuesday’s civil hearing, Bassler was ordered by Ray to repay $615 to the Gilmer Animal Clinic.

Bassler has a previous conviction for animal cruelty in Upshur County, according to the website that maintains county judicial records.

In 2009, County Judge Dean Fowler sentenced Bassler to five days in jail after he pleaded guilty to the charge, records show.

Information on that case was withheld pending an open records request sent Tuesday to the Upshur County Sheriff’s Department.

Alicia Nolte, founder of the nonprofit Fete for Pets group that hopes to build a multi-county animal center in Longview, thanked Ray after his verdict.

“I wanted him to know our citizens do care,” she said. “I want to make sure (Bassler) is charged to the full extent for animal cruelty, because after the asphyxiation of the donkey, who’s next? Our children?”

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