SLIDELL, La. – A man photographed with his pit bull that was dragged to its death behind a pickup truck late last month has been arrested.
Willis Brailey, 50, surrendered to authorities after the images went viral on social media with assumptions about how the dog died. He was booked with simple cruelty to animals, the St. Tammany Parish Sheriff’s Office said.
And though Brailey was arrested, the Sheriff’s Office said, the investigation revealed the animal’s death was an accident.
Brailey told detectives he took his two dogs for a ride May 28, which he does regularly, and put them on leashes in the bed of his truck.
“Unbeknownst to Brailey, one of his dogs jumped out of the pickup truck while he was driving down Highway 190 in Slidell,” the Sheriff’s Office said.
A number of people flagged down Brailey, at which point he pulled over at a gasoline station. “A distraught Brailey discovered his dog was deceased, but was faced with an angry person accusing him of ‘murdering’ his dog,” the Sheriff’s Office said.
Brailey told investigators he went home and left his other dog behind since the scene became “intense.”
Brailey called Slidell Animal Control after getting home to report the incident and have his dog’s remains picked up, the Sheriff’s Office said. But since it was a Sunday evening, Slidell Animal Control was closed.
Brailey left a message with his name and phone number. Asked why he didn’t pick up the deceased dog himself, he told investigators he was physically unable to do so. The Sheriff’s Office said there was no one else with Brailey.
“Investigators were able to confirm Brailey’s version of events by speaking with multiple witnesses, and by verifying the claims in which Brailey told detectives,” the Sheriff’s Office said.
While the dog’s death was an accident, the Sheriff’s Office said he was booked since it was neglectful to place the dogs in the back of the truck.
“Although it’s not against the law to have an animal in the rear of a truck, the safety of the animal can still be considered a criminal matter if something were to happen to the animal, as was the case in this particular incident,” the Sheriff’s Office said.
The dog was sent to the LSU School of Veterinary Medicine for a necropsy, in order to confirm the cause of death which will conclude the investigation.