Suspect in dog case seeks jury trial

A Bartholomew County woman accused of criminal trespassing after checking on the welfare of a dog is seeking a jury trial.

Nena Cheap, 65, of 880 Driftwood Ave., Columbus, is charged with a Class A misdemeanor, but Cheap’s attorney, Dominic Glover, filed a demand for a jury trial in Bartholomew Superior Court 2. Cheap has waived her initial hearing in court.

Glover’s request was granted by the court with a pretrial conference scheduled for 9 a.m. on Sept. 22. The trial itself before Judge Jon Rohde is tentatively set for 8:30 a.m. on Oct. 31.

A Class A misdemeanor carries a maximum penalty of up to one year in jail and a fine of up to $5,000.

The circumstances involving an Australian shepherd named Buddy gathered countywide interest after members of a local animal rights group claimed the canine was forced to stay outdoors during a heat wave.

The organization that calls itself “Change 4 Bartholomew County Animal Advocacy” spent months filing complaints and seeking safer living conditions for Buddy and other dogs.

But in a June 23 post on the advocacy organization’s social media page, group leader Nancy Ray said the act of trespassing on private property and stealing the dog “have damaged our group’s reputation even through they did those things of their own accord and not in association with any actions the group condones.”

Cheap, who initially told deputies she had never been on the property before, claimed she saw the dog while driving along County Road 450N and stopped to check on the animal’s welfare, a probable cause affidavit states. However, she later told investigators she saw social media posts about Buddy and had been on the property on two consecutive days.

There are three “no trespassing” signs posted on the farm property in the Nortonburg area that are clearly visible, deputies stated. Owners of the dog, Donald Burton and Linda Ziegler, called in a trespassing complaint after security cameras captured Cheap’s image on their property near Buddy’s pen, according to court documents.

Concern regarding the dog’s well-being culminated into a barrage of service calls to law enforcement, with as many as a dozen people requesting welfare checks on Buddy during a 36-hour period. In addition, Burton and Ziegler made their own calls to the sheriff’s department complaining about trespassing and harassment.

When deputies responded to the service calls, they discovered the Australian shepherd had shade, as well as plenty of water and food. It was also determined by the deputies – and later Bartholomew County Commissioner Larry Kleinhenz and Animal Control Officer Mark Case – that Buddy was healthy and well-fed. Many members of Ray’s group have criticized those conclusions.

The dispute regarding the Australian shepherd had been going on for some time prior to the alleged trespassing incident.

In April, it was reported that Buddy had been stolen and later turned into the Bartholomew County Humane Society as a stray by a woman claiming to be from Colorado, Sheriff Matt Myers said. Images from the security camera showed an older white female coming on to the property, taking the dog and leaving, Myers said.

However, the suspect in that incident has not been identified.