In her final year as a 4-H member, Kayla Peetz hangs on to compete in the Senior Division competitions.
GARY FRANKLIN PHOTO
The rides at the Ripley County 4-H Fair were all about height, and the two little girls have the best seats in the house.
TATIJANA MARSEE PHOTO
Contestants in the Ripley County 4-H greased pig event find that catching a greasy pig is slippery business.
SANDY DAY HOWARD PHOTO
Woman believes pets killed
Law puts more teeth into animal cruelty offense
A pet owner suspects her dog and cat weren’t killed by accident, and worse, she’s worried there’s a pattern developing in the area. Laci Holt said Montana, a 10-year-old, mixed-breed dog the family had since it was a puppy, went missing July 3. (They live in Ripley County on South County Road 750 E, but with a Dillsboro address.) She immediately began looking for him in the usual places nearby, as he had wandered off several times before since they moved there in September. But this was different, Holt said. Montana usually returned within 20 minutes. Alarmed, she put a plea on Facebook and some other county animal sites about her missing dog.
This picture was posted of Montana before he was found dead.
Montana was found July 9 by a neighbor, but it was not good news. He was not alive, nor was her black and white cat Sadie. Both were found on top of a garbage bag in a wooded area on US 50 South in Dearborn County about a half mile from their home. Although there were little remains left from the vultures, Holt knew it was her dog because of his black collar, the fur, and the cat’s features matched her own. The dog and cat were buddies and always got along well, she added. The woman who found the two told Holt she also had a dog missing in late May, yet to be found.
“I’ve never had problems with Montana, he was never mean or aggressive to anyone,” Holt said, acknowledging Montana had some pit bull in him. “But the cat is not a pit bull!” No one complained about the dog to her. She and her fiancé believe he was killed by buckshot, as they found spray pellets around his body. She called both Ripley and Dearborn County sheriff’s offices about the incident, believing it was intentional and animal cruelty. She also contacted the Ripley County Humane Shelter, and has since learned there are other dogs (one is a beagle, and one is a pyrenese) missing from the area in the past two months.
“I just want to know who did this and why, and to stop it from happening to anyone else. I don’t want anyone else to go through this,” Holt said. Her children, ages 8 and 6, are also upset about the matter. “I worry that whoever is doing this, that it could escalate to something more. I’m scared to let my other dog and cat out.”
Irish Stockard with the Ripley County Humane Society said this is not the first time this type of thing has happened. “Sadly, we see animal cruelty all the time,” she said. Stockard investigated the Montana situation herself, and actually retrieved a 12 gauge shotgun shell from the remains of Holt’s dog. “This is just downright mean,” she said and believes it is a case of animal cruelty. She too worries there is a pattern developing. She also commented that child and animal abuse are often associated within a family. They keep pets for victims of domestic violence who go to the Batesville Safe Passage shelter, and said the threat and act is a way of control and empowerment.
The missing dog report and the tragic outcome was posted on the shelter’s Facebook page and within two days, had 7,000 hits, almost double their average for the week. Stockard thinks such acts deserve more than a slap on the wrist. Laci Holt thinks so too, and can’t press charges because she is not positive whom to charge. She thinks someone is bothered by loose pets.
“I was told steps are taken if a dog is found on someone’s property, but I don’t think this person did that.” Holt thinks the person who did this wanted the dog to be found as they put it in an obvious place nearby.
Sgt. Noel Houze with the state police at Versailles noted, “We rarely get those kinds of calls but on the those occasions that we do we will investigate the complaint.” The calls most often go to the county or town police. Ripley County Sheriff Rodney Stratton told Ripley Publishing that they do get calls for missing animals and complaints of wandering dogs or other animals. He noted that most towns establish their own leash laws. Stratton said if a dog is running loose, the owner is typically notified and if need be, the dog warden as well. If the dog isn’t claimed, the warden often gives the dog to the humane shelter. “However, if a citizen believes their pet was intentionally harmed we will look into it,” according to Stratton. Only if a dog is aggressive does it give the property owner a right to protect themselves or their property. Stratton said otherwise they have no right to shoot or hurt the dog just because it is in their yard.
With the new criminal code in place as of July 1, animal cruelty has been upgraded to a Level 6 felony and if a person is convicted, could receive six months to two and a half years incarcerated. Holt said she did call in a report to an officer, but was not contacted back initially. The officer did come to her home this week for further investigation.
Stockard worries similar cases will go unreported, and therefore not investigated nor prosecuted. Many have told her they didn’t think it would help to report to police, as they have not been helpful in the past. “But, the new felony law is here now and the public needs to know it’s in place. And, people also need to know they cannot just shoot an animal any more if they are not the owner,” Stockard said.
Ripley County Prosecutor Ric Hertel says his office does get animal cruelty (Indiana Code 35-46-3-12) cases “now and then.” He confirmed that the new criminal code lists it as a level 6 felony, if the person has a previous unrelated conviction or committed the act to threaten/intimidate a family or household member. But just killing an animal is not an automatic offense, when you consider protection of property, aggressive animal, even euthanizing an injured animal, as possible defenses, according to Hertel. And, it is different than say animal neglect or abandonment, harboring a non-immunized animal, even interference with a service dog. There are a number of related animal laws on the Indiana books, Hertel added. It was animal neglect that he recalls several years ago when a number of horses were starved and not cared for in Ripley County. The owner pleaded guilty and paid a fine, he said.
This incident is also a good reminder to have pets tagged and moreover, microchipped in case they go missing. “I’m amazed at how many have no tags. It really helps if they go missing,” Stockard said. She cited that the national return rate of a lost pet is just 16 percent. The microchip through the humane shelter costs $20. “The benefit of the microchip is if the dog is found, a vet, warden, or shelter can easily identify who owns the dog,” she added. Stockard wishes the outcome of this case was different and hopes the new law will help change the future of the welfare of our animals.
“It’s heart wrenching to see some of the dogs that are brought in (to the shelter) - and our only option is to get them back to health and find a loving home for them. Just a couple days ago we had an entire litter of puppies brought in that were dumped in a corn field to die. A Good Samaritan found them and saved their lives by bringing them to the shelter,” Stockard said.
The Ripley County Humane Society, a non-profit organization funded by private donations, is located in Ripley County, off of US 421, behind Cox’s Livestock Barn, between Osgood and Versailles. The shelter is currently full, but animal numbers change daily.