More than a dozen dead dogs and cats have been found this year, and many more from 2019 on the road leading to Sluis and Dam 13.
BARLING, Ark. *Some details in this story may disturb readers.
Where the Arkansas River divides Crawford and Sebastian counties at Lock and Dam 13, the tranquil area is a popular fishing area. Lately, it has become an unlikely place to get rid of pets.
Laurie Lehman is an independent animal rescuer who has been visiting the area almost once a week since 2019, if not more.
‘Three years of hell. Three years of pure hell,” Lehman said.
She says she has found nearly a dozen dead dogs this year alone that have been dumped in garbage bags or on the roadside in the area.
“They are helpless, they have no voice,” Lehman said. “They’re 100% dependent on people and it’s going to be really hard. It’s hard to see this over and over, but I keep coming. I keep doing what I have to do to save what I can and do what I can.”
Lehman has tried to catch those responsible for dumping animals, but says her efforts have been unsuccessful. She says trail cameras she personally placed have been destroyed or stolen.
“It’s a never-ending battle that we can’t stop for whatever reason,” she said.
Many of the dogs she found suffered severe trauma, which she says led to their deaths.
Currently, a few bodies of dogs remain near the dam, decomposing in the heat and left for scavengers. But the markings of where the dogs were left remain as a reminder of what happened and to keep track of whether or not it is repeated.
“All that’s left now are the blankets they dumped it with,” Lehman explains, pointing to a location.
She says it’s not just dogs that are found dead at 13 Sluis and Dam.
“Kittens were dumped a few weeks ago,” Lehman said.
She returned with food a few days later and found a horrific scene.
“I found an arrow and we’re missing about five cats. I followed the blood trail to the water, so they threw them in the water,” she said.
Over the years, Lehman has helped save more than 200 animals from the area, but the toll of those she couldn’t save is emotional for her.
“They’re not garbage. They’re living, breathing animals that once loved someone and don’t understand why people do this to them,” Lehman said in tears.
As an independent animal rescuer, Lehman works with many shelters in the area. One of the shelters she works closely with is The Artemis Project.
Lehman tries to capture all the cats and dogs she finds alive that can be taken to groups like The Artemis Project so the animals can receive the medical care they need and are evaluated to be placed in homes.
The Artemis Project says it feels many of the abandoned and deceased animals could be reduced with more efforts to spay or neuter. They also ask that anyone wishing to donate an animal should contact the local shelter.
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