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The Versailles Republican

July 24, 2014 • Headlines

In her final year as a 4-H member, Kayla Peetz hangs on to compete in the Senior Division competitions.
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.
Contestants in the Ripley County 4-H greased pig event find that catching a greasy pig is slippery business.
Tom Tepe Autocenter
Tom Tepe Autocenter
Friendship State Bank Whitewater Motor Company Inc.Ryan Holcomb at Edward Jones
Four Seasons Stove ShoppeDearborn County Hospital Physician PartnersYour Ad Here

Woman believes pets killed
Law puts more teeth into animal cruelty offense

Mary Mattingly

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.

Felony law
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.

Microchip pets
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.

Radio club connects in times of emergencies

Tatijana Marsee

“We’re not storm chasers, we’re storm spotters,” says Donna Felix, treasurer of the Amateur Radio Club and wife of President of the Amateur Radio Club and District 19 Emergency Coordinator Delbert Felix.

The Amateur Radio Club works closely with ARES (Amateur Radio Emergency Services) for the area. Many of the members of Ripley County’s Amateur Radio Club have dual membership with ARES. These clubs serve mostly in the form of a hobby for people who like severe weather spotting and building items such as radios and antennas. After building their radios and being certified to use them, some members like to talk to people from other countries and even farther away on the space station. Delbert and Donna Felix both agreed that their fascination with this hobby came from the idea of being able to talk on a wire and actually speaking to someone all the way in Australia or England or some other far away place.

Of course, in many cases, this so-called hobby has turned out to be a very valuable one for the communities, not just around here but everywhere. Delbert explains that “If police radios go down, they can’t talk or communicate but we can.” These certified amateur radio members can actually communicate in severe situations such as when Hurricane Katrina hit or when the ice storms took out a vast amount of power. Delbert commented that during such severe circumstances these certified amateur radio members would serve as communicators between loved ones. They would relay information to track family members during these bad storms so that if you were states away from some family members, they could receive a message from these amateur radio members saying you were okay.

This group also has served as a big factor in the increasing number of walkathons or races offered in Ripley County. They provide the safety and medical team for these walks, because 85 percent of the members have some sort of medical training. The group encourages any private or public agency to reach out to them during severe conditions. Donna says that “ARES even does damage assessment.”

Currently, the group has about 35 members, but they are in search of new members all the time, especially younger ones. Anyone can join, even if they don’t have a hand radio license, but there are restrictions to the amount of access you will have depending on your training level. This isn’t just a hobby for men, they have a few women in the group already and children can even join.

To become involved in the Amateur Radio Club or ARES contact Delbert Felix by email or by phone 812-756-2470.

Pick up this week's edition of The Versailles Republican for the stories below and more local news. Subscribe by clicking the subscribe link or call 812-689-6364.

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