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PIEDMONT, AL (WBRC) -
A man known for his murals in East Alabama awaits a court date for stealing a dog.
Joseph Giri of Piedmont was arrested by police in his city on a third degree theft charge. He says he was trying to rescue an Akita that he claims was being neglected.
Giri has painted several murals in East Alabama, including two in Anniston honoring the Freedom Riders' trip through that city in 1961. He's also painted other murals across the country, including one in the NASA Jet Propulsion Laboratory in Pasadena, California.
His legal problems began while he was painting another mural, this time a vivid one with a jazz music theme, behind the Mary G. Hardin Center for Cultural Arts in Gadsden.
On his trips from Piedmont to Gadsden and back, Giri says he saw the dog on a lot, tied to a chain. He described conditions he felt were substandard.
"I found this dog that was barely being fed and watered, probably 30 pounds under weight. And I was shocked to see it there in almost no shade and on about a ten foot chain," Giri told Fox6 News.
Giri also says the dog was covered in ticks and had worms, and drank water from a container with a dead rat floating in it.
Giri says he fed and watered the dog himself on his trips to and from Gadsden, and contacted Calhoun County's Animal Control office to see if they could seize the dog. Giri says nothing happened after a few weeks.
Charles McDonald, Calhoun County Animal Control Officer, told Fox6 he was unable to comment on the case upon request from the county commission, until the case is over. We wanted to ask if he felt the dog was being neglected.
Giri says with nothing happening, he took matters into his own hands.
"I tried to re-home the dog myself, which is illegal. And I got caught," says Giri.
Giri says what got him caught was advertising the dog on Craigslist to potential new owners.
"I had four official vehicles pull up into my driveway, and take me to jail," Giri says.
Giri blogged about the incident at length on his personal website, josephgiri.com, and on his Facebook page. He also displayed pictures of the dog and its watering bowl. This led to petitions on Facebook and Change.org to get Piedmont Police to drop the charges.
Giri, however, says he's remorseful about the incident. And he doesn't find the officials who arrested him at fault.
"I don't think the officials that I dealt with are at fault, I think their hands kind of tied. And that's why I did something instead, you know, because they couldn't do anything."
Giri also says the owner, who he says wasn't ever present on the property whenever he dropped by, is apparently not intentionally cruel, and that the conditions built up over a matter of time. Neither he nor any of the authorities in the case have revealed the owner's name, so Fox6 was not able to get a comment from him.
Piedmont Police declined to be interviewed, referring us to McDonald. A woman who answer the phone in Piedmont's municipal court office wouldn't even confirm the third degree theft charge, alleging advance court dockets aren't public record.
Giri says under the circumstances, he still doesn't know what else he could've done, and says the laws that cover animal neglect in Alabama are too weak.
"Something needed to be done and it wasn't getting done, and their hands were tied. It was kind of a moral dilemma for me, you know."