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Woman facing animal cruelty charges for brutally beating dog at Georgia welcome center

Written by L. Chase

Published November 14, 2022 @ 10:24 AM ET

Camden County (July 23, 2022) – Police responded to a Georgia welcome center in St. Mary’s after two witnesses observed a woman, identified as Serena Stills, violently kicking, hitting, and dragging a dog she was walking on a leash.

Upon arriving at the welcome center, officers met with the witnesses in the parking lot. One of the witnesses was visibly emotional and upset and had taken several videos of the woman beating a black dog, which appeared to be a lab pit-bull mixed breed.

Officers watched the videos and observed that Stills seemed very frustrated, evidenced in her body language and actions, which were described as “tense, irritable, and impatient.” In the video, the dog was seen being walked by Stills on a leash and seemed to be behaving. The dog was not acting aggressively, pulling on the leash, or horseplaying. Although the dog was not misbehaving, Stills repeatedly hit and yanked the dog around by the leash.

One of the officers described the videos of the abuse as very disturbing and hard to watch. Stills’ behavior was very inappropriate and violent towards the animal, who would crouch down and submit to her after the blows. The dog appeared very confused and would look around in response to the abuse as if unsure of what to do. The violence towards the dog was unprovoked and unjustified.

The witness documenting the incident was distraught and concerned, as Stills had been walking the dog with a juvenile who had also witnessed the violent abuse Stills inflicted on the animal.

The witness noted that Stills had also beaten the dog with her shoe after it came off while kicking the animal. At one point, the dog stopped to sniff something, and Stills held the dog down and proceeded to hit the dog with her shoe. The witness stated that at one point, the dog’s tongue was hanging out of its mouth as Stills yanked it up and suspended the animal in the air by its collar before being thrown back to the ground.

The second witness happened to be a medical doctor. While not a veterinarian, he believed that the dog needed medical attention after the abuse because of the severity of the blows and abuse sustained. The witness was concerned that the animal may have obtained internal injuries from the attack.

The officer who viewed the videos and took the witness statements conversed with his fellow officers, and Stills was then taken into custody.

After the arrest, police spoke with Stills’ mother, who they learned was the actual owner of the dog, Black Jack, or BJ for short. Mrs. Stills had stopped at the welcome center to use the restroom, and her daughter was supposed to walk the dog. Mrs. Stills was utterly oblivious to the abuse that had taken place, for when she emerged from the restroom, her daughter was detained, and the police were on the scene. When Mrs. Stills learned of the incident, she informed officers that her daughter had bipolar disorder and had not been taking her medication. She stated that her daughter had a very bad temper and could become very irritable when not properly medicated. She said that she never knew her daughter ever to harm the dog, as she always loved animals.

Animal control was called to see if BJ would need to be taken into their custody because of the injuries sustained by him. BJ was evaluated but was an aggressive dog, and officers did not want to risk their own safety; however, it did seem as though BJ had a slight limp, and was favoring his right side as he walked, which was consistent with the areas in which he had been hit.

Due to the dog’s aggressiveness, Mrs. Stills was permitted to keep the dog in her custody under the strict agreement that BJ would be seen by a vet as soon as possible. Mrs. Stills agreed and was not suspected of any type of abuse towards the animal.

Serena Stills was arrested and charged with cruelty to animals for her attack on BJ, and she was transported to the Camden County Public Safety Complex.

Officer’s Narrative:
[Please note: The following is a direct transcription from the official initial incident report. The Georgia Gazette does not fix any spelling or grammatical errors that may exist. Any changes or redactions made by our staff are placed inside brackets. Some errors may exist. All subjects are innocent until proven guilty in a court of law. The topics discussed may be sensitive to some readers. Discretion is advised.]

On Saturday, July 23, 2022, at approximately 6:05PM, officers of the St. Marys Police Department were dispatched to 100 St. Marys Road, St. Marys, GA 31558 (Camden County; GA Welcome Center) in reference to a woman abusing a dog. The dispatcher stated a witness was on scene and reported a woman was kicking, hitting, and dragging a black dog. The dispatcher stated the suspect would be found in a bright blue Toyota Rav4 in the parking lot.

Corporal Stokes and I responded with the normal flow of traffic. Upon arrival, Corporal Stokes met with Ms. Serena Stills (suspect) at the blue Toyota Rav4 which was bearing the NC registration [REDACTED BY AGENCY].

When I arrived, I met with the witnesses who were waiting across the GA Welcome Center parking lot in a gray Ford Expedition bearing the GA registration [REDACTED BY AGENCY]. The witnesses were identified as Ms. [WITNESS #1] and Mr. [WITNESS #2]. When I came in contact with Ms. [WITNESS #1] she was emotional and upset about what happened to the dog. Ms. [WITNESS #1] gave me her phone and told me she took a series of recordings to document the abuse. Ms. [WITNESS #1] gave me permission to play the videos on her phone.

As I proceeded to watch the videos, I observed Serena appeared to be very frustrated. Serena’s frustration was evident in her body language and actions which were tense, irritable, and impatient. I observed, on the video, Serena walking a large black lab/pitt-bull mixed breed dog. The dog was on a leash and seemed to be behaving. The dog was not pulling on the leash, acting aggressively, or horseplaying. Although the dog was not misbehaving, Serena began hitting the dog repeatedly and yanked the dog around by it’s harness/collar. The violent behavior against the dog was so abrupt that it was very shocking and difficult to watch on the video. Serena’s behavior with the animal was very inappropriate and violent.

In response to her aggression, I observed the dog would submit and cower to her. The dog appeared confused in response to the physical abuse. After being struck, the dog appeared to look around for a moment as if unsure what he should do. The violence committed against the dog was unprovoked and was not justified.

Ms. [WITNESS #1]’s video was shaky at times and it appeared that she was nervous and emotional while trying to capture the video footage and could not steady her hand very well. When Ms. [WITNESS #1] tried to speak to me about what she witnessed, she would continue crying because it was deeply troubling to her. Ms. [WITNESS #1] was upset because Serena was walking the dog with a juvenile at the time and she was also concerned for the juvenile being witness to that type of violence behavior upon on an animal. Ms. [WITNESS #1] told me after hitting the dog, Serena began kicking the dog. Ms. [WITNESS #1] could hardly speak when describing how difficult it was to witness the abuse.

Ms. [WITNESS #1] completed a written statement about the incident which further described she witnessed Serena hitting the dog in the face with her shoe after her shoe came off while she was kicking the dog. Ms. [WITNESS #1] stated at one point the dog stopped to sniff something on the ground and Serena held the dog down and hit the dog repeatedly in the face with her shoe. Ms. [WITNESS #1] also wrote that at one point Serena lifted the dog in the air by it’s collar or harness so that the dog was suspended in the air off of the ground. Ms. [WITNESS #1] wrote that it appeared the dog’s tongue was hanging out as if dead at one point and then he was thumped down on the concrete road.

Ms. [WITNESS #1]’s husband, Mr. [WITNESS #2], was present in the vehicle and also stated he witnessed the same abuse. Mr. [WITNESS #2] was a medical doctor with over 30 years of medical practice. Although not a veterinarian, I asked Mr. [WITNESS #2] based on the abuse he witnessed, would his training and knowledge as a medical professional give him reason to believe the dog needed to receive a medical evaluation from a veterinarian and he stated the dog certainly needed a medical evaluation. Mr. [WITNESS #2] stated based on what he observed he believed the dog would have sustained internal injuries. Mr. [WITNESS #2] stated the kicking of the dog was severe and troublesome. Mr. [WITNESS #2] confirmed the dog was suspended in the air by the harness or collar and then thrown to the ground.

After speaking with Ms. [WITNESS #1] and Mr. [WITNESS #2], I drove across the parking lot to Corporal Stokes’ location to make contact with him and advise him about what I learned from the [WITNESSES]. Shortly thereafter, Corporal Hoster and Officer Bishop arrived on scene to assist as well. After sharing the information with the officers about what transpired between Serena and the dog, Serena was taken into custody. Serena was arrested and secured in Officer Bishop’s patrol vehicle.

I then spoke with Ms. [WITNESS #3]. [WITNESS #3] was Serena’s mother and the actual legal owner of the dog who was abused in this incident. The abused dog was identified as a black lab/pit-bull mixed breed named Black Jack or BJ. BJ was said to be about four years old. [WITNESS #3] stated she went into the GA Welcome Center to use the restroom and while she was inside her daughter was going to walk the dogs. When [WITNESS #3] exited the restrooms, she exited to find police on scene and was oblivious to the abuse the occurred in her absence.

I explained to [WITNESS #3] what happened and she told me her daughter suffered from bipolar disorder and was recently not taking her medication. [WITNESS #3] told me her daughter could have a very bad temper at times and become very irritable when not properly medicated. [WITNESS #3] stated she never knew her daughter to hurt her dogs before because she loved the animals very much.

Animal Control was called on scene for the possibility of taking BJ into custody if necessary for the possible injuries. I tried to meet with BJ to evaluate him for his wellness, but BJ was an aggressive dog and I was not willing to risk my own safety. However, from my observations at a distance, I noticed BJ was favoring his right side when he walked. BJ appeared to have a limp and from the videos I observed, I did see him hit in that area several times.

Due to his aggressive nature, Animal Control permitted [WITNESS #3] to retain BJ in her custody under the agreement he be brought before a veterinarian immediately. [WITNESS #3] was not suspected of any abuse against her dog and agreed to bring BJ to a veterinarian to comply. [WITNESS #3] appeared appropriate during the situation and capable of rendering care to the animal as necessary.

Serena was arrested and charged with cruelty to animals for her actions against BJ. Serena was transported to the Camden County Public Safety Complex in Woodbine, GA for booking by Officer Bishop and Corporal Hoster where she was released to the jail staff for booking. On Monday, July 25, 2022, I secured the arrest warrant for Serena (22-2056MW OCGA § 16-12-4(b) Cruelty to Animals).

[End of Narrative]