Bartholomew County Sheriff deputies are investigating a reported case of animal cruelty in Columbus involving a 2-year-old German shepherd that died of starvation and neglect.
The dog was rescued by an animal rescue group in Quincy a week ago after a neighbor in Columbus learned that Riley’s owners were trying to give him away.
The neighbor offered to take Riley and then sent the dog to Joanie Zupan of Quincy, who owns Indiana GSD (German Shepherd Dog) and Siberian Husky Rescue, about 60 miles northwest of Columbus.
Zupan said she attempted to help the dog by taking him to a veterinarian in Brazil — west of Quincy — for treatment of malnutrition and worms.
But the dog was in too poor a condition to survive, and died Sunday, Zupan said.
She filed a police report with the Bartholomew County Sheriff’s department Tuesday against the dog’s owners in Columbus, alleging animal cruelty.
“People need to be educated: If you can’t afford a dog or can’t take care of it, you shouldn’t have the dog,” she said. “It’s not right people can do this to a dog. They need to be in jail.”
The dog had been with the Columbus family since it was a puppy, Zupan said.
When Zupan contacted the owners seeking Riley’s veterinarian records, the dog’s owners could not supply them, she said.
Riley weighed 43 pounds, compared to a normal, healthy German shepherd of his age which would weigh 95 to 100 pounds, Zupan said.
Veterinarian Dr. John Shepherd of Four Loving Paws Veterinary Services in Brazil started the dog on fluids, de-wormed him and gave him antibiotics, but blood work indicated the dog’s kidneys were shutting down and he was unlikely to survive, Zupan said.
Shepherd said that when Riley came into the veterinary practice, he was evaluated on a common scoring scale used by veterinarians, and was rated at a 1 out of 9, with 9 being a healthy score.
“When we see a rescue dog, we’re just seeing a snapshot,” the veterinarian said. “In rescue situations, we don’t get the entire story. We just have this piece of it in front of us.”
The Four Loving Paws veterinary staff had begun to compile information that could determine causes for Riley’s dehydration and other issues, he said.
“He needed fluid support, and unfortunately, we couldn’t pull Riley out of that,” Shepherd said.
Zupan said she tried to contact the owner of the dog to explain what was happening and was told the dog was just stressed about the family moving.
Riley’s owner said he had been previously seen by a veterinarian, but could not provide a name, Zupan said.
“It’s not the first time I have seen something like this, and it’s not going to be the last time,” Shepherd said. “We don’t want any animal to be sick, and we want to make sure we do everything we can do to help.”
Animal cruelty statutes are included under Indiana Code 35-46-3-7, abandonment or neglect of vertebrate animals. Section 7 states a person having a vertebrate animal in the person’s custody who recklessly, knowingly, or intentionally abandons or neglects the animal commits cruelty to an animal, a Class B misdemeanor.
Conviction of a Class B misdemeanor is punishable by up to 180 days in jail and a fine of up to $1,000.