COOTER, MO (KAIT) – The Cooter Police Department in Pemiscot County Monday said it is investigating the deaths of at least 11 animals over the last two weeks. According to Police Chief Chris Blagg, someone has been poisoning dogs and cats in the city with antifreeze. Cooter Police have taken at least four offense reports in the last month regarding suspicious pet deaths.
"She said that she had found her animal dead, deceased. He was located right out here on Main Street. He didn't appear to be run over. He didn't appear that he had any marks on him," said Blagg.
Blagg said he contacted a veterinarian in Blytheville, Arkansas after learning of the death of a Jack Russell. The report stated the dog was acting "healthy as a horse" the day before the body was found in his owner's back yard.
"I don't think this is something that some teenagers or some children would be capable of doing. I highly believe that one adult or multiple adults are involved in this deal, and we are going to do our best to hold the accountable for their actions," said Blagg.
Blagg contacted the Caruthersville Humane Society to help in the investigation. Carol Wilcox with the organization said some residents have lost family members.
"It's hard for an owner to make the decision that the dog is old and ill and to have it humanely euthanized, let alone to find out that somebody intentionally did something to cause your animal to suffer," said Wilcox.
Another offense report stated one woman lost up to six cats.
"These are the toughest investigations. I mean, we can see animal abuse when a dog is staked out and starving, but when someone is actually killing an animal with poison. It's tough to prove who's doing it and how," said Wilcox. "We need information. Someone knows who's doing this because it's a small town and people talk. Somebody knows. We want somebody to tell the police who did this."
Wilcox said she's confident the culprit will receive a conviction and jail time once they're located and arrested. She said she's not sure what kind of information the public has to offer.
"It's torturing an animal and in Missouri, it's a felony to torture and maim an animal. There is misdemeanor abuse, but to torture an animal while alive can be a felony. This is definite torture. The animals don't just lick up the antifreeze and die a peaceful death. They suffer for days," said Wilcox. "It has to be intentional. There are accidents where people spill antifreeze and a dog may lap it up, but to see this many deaths, it's got to be intentional."
Wilcox said the southern part of Pemiscot County has always had problems with stray animals. She said Steele and Holland have also had their share of animal cruelty investigations.
"This isn't the first time in the county we've had poisonings and we seem to have had a rash of them in the last six to eight months in various places, but this is certainly more concentrated," said Wilcox. "We still had maimings on the railroad tracks in Steele."
Wilcox said the Caruthersville Humane Society has offered a $3,000 reward for information leading to the arrest and conviction of the criminal. She also said a $5,000 reward is still on the table in an unsolved case in Steele and $3,000 in another case in Holland.
"If we can find definitively who's doing this, I can guarantee you they'll see their day in court," said Wilcox. "To kill somebody's pet and these are not dogs that are strays, wild dogs. These are dogs that are people's pets and belong to the family and it would be like taking a child away from somebody. These dogs belong to people."
Blagg said residents of Cooter and the surrounding areas should make sure their pets are either caged or chained up to keep them from roaming around.
"If you have an animal and you own that animal, you do need to keep it up, especially right now since we're having this lovely little problem," said Blagg. "It's a major problem. They're not doing that and eventually it's going to come down that we are going to start picking up these animals. We're going to transport them to the humane society in Caruthersville and we are going to try to get them off the streets, so we can determine exactly whose animals belong to whom and who all is homeless."