People screaming during the late afternoon on Wednesday, November 23 broke the calm on Gulfport’s beach just before the Thanksgiving holiday.
They were watching a man throw his dog from the Casino’s dock, according to witnesses, and while struggling to swim with a heavy metal chain around its neck the animal drowned. The Casino is located at 5500 Shore Blvd. S. on the shore of Boca Ciega Bay.
“The kids who had witnessed it were still up on the pier crying, yelling, very upset,” said Eagle Finegan, a Gulfport resident and photographer who arrived soon after the dog died to record the event’s aftermath with her camera.
As she stood nearby while police interviewed the dog’s owner, she heard him say he was, “strength training” his pit bull and that he had done it before.
“The chain was extremely heavy,” said Detective Sgt. Thomas Woodman, spokesperson for the Gulfport Police Department. “The weight was estimated to be between 10 to 20 pounds.”
The male dog was a “medium-sized” pit bull breed about two years old, brown in color, and was “very muscular and strong,” said Woodman. Some people at the scene thought the animal was bred for dog fighting, but a police officer “inspected the dog and didn’t find any observable indications of that.” The exact weight of the dog is not known.
According to the police report, just after 4:30 p.m., a man was playing with his dog on the beach and threw it over the Casino’s dock into the water. The first time, the dog swam back to the beach to run around. When another dog came into the area, the owner put a chain with a padlock on it around his dog’s neck and “again threw the dog over the edge” of the Casino’s dock, said Woodman.
“Due to the weight [of the chain], the dog was struggling,” said Woodman. “The guy attempted to rescue his dog but by the time he got to [it], it was too late. It was an unfortunate circumstance. It’s obviously a sensitive matter. It doesn’t appear to be intentional.”
The man told police he just forgot the chain was on the dog when he tossed the animal off the dock.
Police took statements from the owner and two juveniles who witnessed the event. In addition, they have located a video recording from a nearby business.
“We pretty much have the entire thing on video,” said Woodman.
Finegan published four photos of the dog’s owner on her Facebook page on Friday, November 25 and as of Wednesday, November 30, the post had been shared over 1,200 times.
Gulfport Police Officer Scott Hutsko will take the details of the case to prosecutors in the state attorney’s office on December 5 to discuss the option of charging the owner with animal cruelty, which is a third degree felony that carries a maximum penalty of five years in prison, said Woodman. Typically, a decision regarding how a case should proceed is not made on the same day as the initial meeting.
Because the investigation is ongoing, police are not yet releasing the video or the name of the owner because he has not been arrested or charged with a crime.
A local television station, WTSP 10 News, has identified the owner as Joe Louis Bradford. He told the television reporter he was trying to get his dog in the water to clean the fleas off of him. Bradford, 28, lives in St. Petersburg. The dog’s name was Rock.