After five years in federal custody in Mississippi, Max the German Shepherd gets new life

Published 7:28 am Saturday, June 13, 2020

After spending five years in a Hattiesburg animal shelter, Mississippi Max has found a new home in South Carolina.

The 7-year-old German shepherd was at the center of a federal lawsuit after allegedly attacking emergency responders in his previous owner’s home in 2015. Because of the ongoing lawsuit, Southern Pines Animal Shelter was ordered to keep him in federal custody until his case was presented in Municipal Court.

The lawsuit recently settled out of court, allowing Max to finally be adopted. He now lives in South Carolina with veterinarian Michael Privett.

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Here’s what we know about Mississippi Max’s story:


When emergency personnel arrived at the home of Max’s previous owner in 2015, Charlie Holt, to take him to the hospital, Max allegedly escaped. Animal control officers deemed Max vicious and would not go near him.

Ginny Sims, Southern Pines Animal Shelter director, noticed the German shepherd roaming around the woods near the shelter and continuously tried to ease him to safety.

Max was then brought into the shelter; animal control officers said he was vicious and should not be released.

After Holt was released from the hospital, he was unable to pick up his dog from the animal shelter because it was ordered to keep Max until the case was presented in Municipal Court.

Holt filed a lawsuit in 2016 in hopes of getting Max back, but to no avail. Max could not be released until the lawsuit was settled.


Holt, a pioneering Hattiesburg radio icon, died in 2018. He was 96.

He operated 10 radio stations and several TV stations throughout his career.

After his death, Holt’s family continued to pursue the case, which was in the 5th Circuit Court of Appeals at the time. Max was still unable to be released from the animal shelter.


Southern Pines Animal Shelter filed a lawsuit in November 2018 in Forrest County Circuit Court seeking payment for Max’s care and unspecified damages.

The shelter asked for more than $26,000.

Despite requests for payment, the shelter has not been reimbursed for the cost of maintaining Max, the 2018 suit said.

The city and Mayor Toby Barker have been named in the lawsuit because of the Municipal Court order.

The lawsuit recently settled out of court after being pursued by Holt’s family since his death. The settlement is awaiting the final report from all parties, which must be filed by June 12.


Max has been living in a South Carolina home with veterinarian Michael Privett for about two weeks now.

Privett has been a vet for 35 years and has been involved in animal rescue.

He heard of Max’s care a few years ago through a relative connected with the animal shelter caring for Max. He said if Max was unable to find a home, he would be happy to care for him.


Privett said Max has shown no aggression toward him since moving to South Carolina. This does not apply to anybody else, he said, however.

Max gets along with other animals — dogs, horses, cattle and goats — on the farm, Privett said. He even rides along in the truck with his new owner, although he gets hyper at times.

Max even keeps Privett company as he gardens.

“Max will teach me more than I will teach him,” Privett said. “My goal is, I will never punish Max. I’ll try to guide him and correct him when he starts thinking the wrong thing.”