The Jefferson County Sheriff’s Office is investigating the possible dumping of two dogs into a bayou underneath a bridge about two miles outside of Pine Bluff on Wilbur West Road.
Meanwhile, Pine Bluff Animal Control Department Director Brandon Southerland is denying his agency had anything to do with the matter despite a statement from a Jefferson County woman who said she witnessed a department truck parked on the bridge about 75 minutes before the dogs’ remains were found.
On Friday evening, Janice McBee Stratton posted a message on The Commercial’s Facebook page, claiming she had seen the truck as she drove by about 3:45 p.m. Stratton said a man outside the truck turned himself away from her as she drove near, and as she passed she witnessed the truck’s tailgate down and a clear, plastic bag in its bed. She said she had slowed to about 35 miles an hour.
Stratton said she was bothered by what she had seen, and returned to the bridge about 5 p.m. and discovered the dogs’ remains in the water. One, she said, was wrapped in a clear, plastic bag.
The Jefferson County Chapter of the American Humane Society learned of the situation and intervened. On Saturday morning, two representatives of the organization – who asked not to be identified in this article – met at the scene with Southerland, an unnamed JCSO investigator and Ted Davis, an aide to Pine Bluff Mayor Carl A. Redus Jr.
Southerland retrieved the dogs from the water, saying one was indeed wrapped in clear, thick plastic. While one of the AHS members said the dogs looked as though they hadn’t been submerged beyond Friday afternoon, Southerland said the pair “had been there a while.”
“We don’t use clear plastic in our operations, and beyond that, why would we have an employee with a truck outside the city stopped on a bridge and why would he be dumping the remains of two dogs?” Southerland asked. “We have an incinerator we use at our facility (at 901 Haverty St.) in disposing of animals, and we also have a contract with Waste Management. We dispose of some animals at the landfill, and we place those in black plastic bags.”
Southerland defended his four employees, but added that he’s conducting an ongoing internal investigation. He said he’s interviewed his staff and doesn’t believe “anything like that would ever happen,” speaking of the accusation concerning Friday’s incident.
“I’m satisfied with our mileage log,” he said. “We are dispatched by MECA (the 9-1-1 Metropolitan Emergency Communications Agency radio service). We may have a follow-up in which we drive more miles, but everything is logged, even when one of us goes home or to lunch. We’re not free-range of the city.
“I’ve also talked to several persons who live near the bridge in question, and they all told me they didn’t see anything, period,” he continued. “My officers were briefed and they’ve got their whereabouts accounted for. Obviously, someone did dump the dogs, but I don’t think it was anyone in my department. I do believe the lady (Stratton) saw something. That’s obvious because we retrieved the two dogs and one was in clear plastic, but I don’t believe she saw what she thinks she did with our involvement. I wish that when she saw whatever it was, she would have called me or the police instead of posting something on Facebook to get public comments on something that’s uncertain.”
But Southerland isn’t mad at Stratton.
“Oh, no,” he said. “I don’t think she needs to make accusations without facts, but I don’t fault her for being interested in animals. I’m an animal lover, too, and the other people in my department care about animals the same way. We want them to be safe and healthy, just like she does.”
JCSO Major Lafayette Woods Jr. said that even if someone is charged in the matter, the lone offense would likely be illegal dumping.
“We can’t determine how the dogs died or if the individual caused their deaths,” said Woods.
“We need to figure out who’s dumping these animals,” said Southerland. “That’s a terrible thing for someone to do, and more than that, it’s against the law. I’m an advocate of animals. I want to get to the bottom of this just like anyone else. I want to find out who’s responsible.”