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Former Okeechobee County Animal Control supervisor reinstated following cruelty investigation

WPTV-OKEECHOBEE-HORSE.jpg
Posted at 4:46 PM, Nov 04, 2019

OKEECHOBEE COUNTY, Fla. — A former Okeechobee County Animal Control supervisor has been reinstated after she resigned following an animal cruelty investigation earlier this year.

Sgt. Arlene Durbin submitted a letter of resignation on Sept. 23, one day after authorities said a horse died and three other emaciated horses were seized from a property along 22nd Avenue.

Deputies arrested the owner of the horses, Bobby Travis, for animal cruelty.

Following the discovery, concerned residents sounded off on social media about the investigation.

One woman told WPTV she contacted Okeechobee County Animal Control about the horses back in May. Comments on social media showed outrage that authorities did not step in faster to help the horses.

The sheriff's office launched an internal investigation into the matter and said in a statement, "the front line supervisor responsible for this unit and this investigation has since resigned from the Okeechobee County Sheriff’s Office.”

As a result, the sheriff’s office discontinued the internal investigation.

Less than two weeks after submitting her letter of resignation, Sgt. Durbin filed a letter to have her resignation rescinded "as she was upset at the time and thought she had made a bad decision to resign," according to the sheriff's office.

On Oct. 11, Sheriff Noel Stephen reinstated Durbin as an employee with no rank and no supervisory expectations, along with a reduction in pay.

Durbin was placed in the transport unit and has had no contact with the Animal Control department.

The sheriff’s office said the internal investigation re-opened once Durbin was re-hired with the agency, and that the investigation is nearly complete.

An Okeechobee woman who complained to the sheriff’s office about the treatment of Travis’s horses said she was disappointed in the sheriff’s decision to hire Durbin in a new position

“This wasn’t just a lapse in judgment like [Sheriff] Noel [Stephen] wants to tell everybody. This was a big mistake,” the woman, who only wanted to be identified as Lori, said. “They could have stepped in and saved these animals."