Everyone loves puppies. Well, almost everyone.
Apparently not Albert Gregory, the former Florida Department of Environmental Protection park planner and twice-referenced expert source for Tampa Bay Times environmental reporter Craig Pittman.
First, some background.
Last year, DEP chief Jon Steverson created a maelstrom when he suggested revising state park management plans at several of Florida’s 174 State Parks. Steverson’s comments were interpreted (by some) as sanctioning the expansion of grazing, logging, and other revenue-generating activities — which could also include hunting.
Cue the indignant outrage from thousands of angry residents, not least of which Pittman.
“The boom of gunfire could begin echoing through Florida’s award-winning parks system by December under a Department of Environmental Protection plan,” he decried.
Pittman did say documents obtained by the Times did not specify which of the state parks might be “suitable spots for hunters to shoot deer, turkey, squirrel, rabbit, otter, bobcat, raccoons, beavers, quail, dove, feral hogs, coyotes and — if the state wildlife commission approves a hunting season this month — bear.”
What, not puppies? Interestingly, they were not on Pittman’s list.
Nevertheless, as a source for Pittman’s two articles on the subject (June 12 and November 7), the intrepid reporter quotes Gregory, a former parks planning chief who retired from the DEP after more than 30 years.
“Of all the activities being contemplated,” Gregory told Pittman, “hunting is ‘fundamentally incompatible with the purpose’ of state parks.”
The bottom line – according to Pittman, Gregory, and environmentalists – is that it’s not a good idea to hunt certain animals in state parks.
What about puppies? As dictated by logic, that would be bad too, right?
Perhaps not, in the eyes of Albert Gregory.
You see, in 1998, Gregory and his wife Beth had turned themselves in for arrest in Leon County, each on two counts of Cruelty to Animals. More specifically, the couple was accused of executing a pair of Dachshunds (one successfully) belonging to the parents of Ms. Melita Stone.
According to the (graphic) arrest report, Stone’s parents, Raleigh “Max “ and Margaret Tillman, were visiting Florida from Georgia on May 25 for Memorial Day. They had brought along an eight-year-old female named Cricket and her six-month-old puppy, Lady. Both dogs were secured inside the fenced back yard at Ms. Stone’s home. Around 5 p.m., Max Tillman unleashed the older Dachshund so the two could relieve themselves before the return trip to Georgia. Neither Cricket nor Lady returned.
That evening, Stone received a call from her father telling her of a message he received from Beth Gregory, a neighbor who said they had the two dogs. When Stone returned the call, Gregory informed her both dogs were shot and killed, claiming they had “killed her cat.” Beth Gregory added that the “small dog” was dead, and thrown into the river.
Albert Gregory later explained to deputies that he found his cat (which he claimed was dead) in the corner of his garage, where the door was cracked open to allow access. It was at that point he saw the faces of the two dogs looking through the open doorway. Gregory quickly captured them with a pillowcase, removing a collar (to ostensibly contact the owner) and then took the dogs to the backyard, where he shot Lady with a 12-gauge shotgun.
As Gregory came back to the house for more buckshot to “finish the job,” he said Cricket had escaped the pillowcase, running off into the woods. Eventually, the wounded animal made her way back to Stone’s house.
The official report concludes with an interesting observation: “it should be also noted that neither Deputy Zondervan nor this writer has seen any evidence of a cat being killed.”
This sordid tale comes courtesy of the man who would later tell Craig Pittman that hunting is “incompatible” with public parks. Of course, hunting is quite different from simply stuffing your prey into a pillowcase, for quick dispatch with a 12-gauge.
When hunting deer, turkey, squirrel, rabbit, otter, bobcat, raccoons, beavers, quail, dove, feral hogs, coyotes and (later) bear, they are at least provided more of a sporting chance.
The story does end on a somewhat happy note. After emergency treatment in both Florida and Georgia, Cricket eventually survived the ordeal.
For his part, Gregory — who was released on his own recognizance — was now free to opine to Pittman, years later, on the relative evils of hunting in state parks. Based on such firsthand experience, he should know about evil.
When asked for his side of this story, Gregory did confirm the accusation but declined to comment further.
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