Death in Marianna | Arkansas Blog

Friday, September 24, 2010

Death in Marianna

Posted By on Fri, Sep 24, 2010 at 4:02 PM

DEATH SCENE: Dogs blood in Marianna.
  • DEATH SCENE: Dog's blood in Marianna.

Witnesses say a Marianna animal control officer beat a stray dog to death last weekend. The police contend that the dog was already dead when picked up. (The photo above shows the dog's blood on a sidewalk near a Sonic where witnesses saw the encounter.) It's set off quite a controversy.

A Facebook page has popped up to condemn the action and has drawn hundreds of participants.

A University of Memphis journalism student, Chelsea Boozer, was drawn to the case by the Facebook page and did her own reporting on the story. Her story is on the jump.

Similar coverage on Memphis TV has also hit YouTube.

By Chelsea Boozer

An animal control officer of the Marianna Police Department has been accused of thrashing a stray dog last Sunday, resulting in the dog’s death.

Gail Hall, a Sonic drive-in employee, said when she looked outside of her work building she saw “a heavy-set black male dog-catcher” repeatedly striking a dog against his work vehicle, the police department’s animal control truck.

“The dog catcher started taking the dog and swinging it up against the back of the truck on the pen they put them in,” said Hall. “He swung it on that pen six times. I stepped out the front door and hollered ‘I’m watching you,’ then he turned around, looked at me, and turned back to finish swinging [the dog] against the truck. After he did it six times, he swung it in the truck with the catch pole still on the neck and drove off.”

Hall called the police and filed a statement on what she’d seen Thursday. Two of three other witnesses at the Sonic signed it, she said.

Marianna Police Chief Vincent Bell said Friday that there’d been an investigation of Animal Control Officer Corey Watson, but it was closed Thursday. A statement prepared by City Attorney Bill Lewellen said “when the animal control officer arrived, he found a dog, already dead — hit by a motorist.” Lewellen said the worker put the dog in the back of the truck.

Hall said she’d been told by Police Sgt. Alvin Honeycutt that the dog had already died. “I said, ‘If the dog was dead how come it took him six swings to get the dog in the truck?’ and he couldn’t answer me.” Hall’s statement to police said she’d seen the dog running down the road before Watson caught it. Hall’s daughter called the People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals, which said it would investigate further.

Animal Control Officer Corey Watson could not be reached for comment.

It’s not the only complaint Marianna residents have about animal control. Kayla Jones of Marianna claims she once saw another animal control officer, not Watson, shooting dogs on a back road. Jones said she did not call police or file a report.

Police Chief Bell said animal control officers do not shoot dogs. He said it was city policy to hold stray animals for a certain number of days (he was unsure of the length of time) and then take them to Forrest City to be euthanized. However, Alyssa Aldridge of the Forrest City Area Humane Society said, “We [the Forrest City Area Humane Society] don’t take dogs from Marianna, nor does Forrest City Animal Control, with whom we share the animal shelter. We simply do not have the space or funds for that.”

Local veterinarians declined to comment on whether they receive dogs from Marianna animal control officers.

Called back for comment on the statement that Forrest City takes no dogs from Marianna, Chief Bell hung up the phone. Lewellen, too, said the issue was “over” as far as he was concerned. He said there were other witnesses, including a person who had been jogging, who said the dog was dead and in a pool of blood on the sidewalk when it was picked up.

Bridget Bumgarner, a former office manager for the Marianna/Lee County Chamber of Commerce, contends the area has long had a problem with animal abuse.

“Marianna citizens just don’t care about dogs,” she said. “When I’d mention animal control or dogs to the Chamber Board everyone ignored me.”

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