Charges dismissed against dog owner

This photo, provided by the Change 4 Bartholomew County Animal Advocacy group, shows Thor’s condition prior to his death.

A criminal charge against a Bethel Village man accused of causing his dog’s death through abuse and neglect has been dismissed.

Benjamin D. Collins, 35, of 596 Falcon Drive, had been charged with cruelty to an animal while having custody of a vertebrate animal and recklessly, knowingly or intentionally abandoning or neglecting the animal. The offense is a Class A misdemeanor punishable by up to one year in jail, as well as a $5,000 fine.

When Collins’ Mastiff mix dog named Thor died in the fall of 2021, the animal only weighed 72 pounds – less than half of its normal weight. Thor had been treated twice at the same Sellersburg facility for what some suspected was intentional abuse.

The dismissal was made in light of a post-mortem examination at Purdue University that showed Thor died of renal cell carcinoma with metastasis. The determination of cancer as the cause of death was confirmed by defense attorney Bradley Kage of North Vernon.

This essentially left the state with no probable cause to proceed with the case against Collins, so the charge was dropped, according to court officials.

When the story about Thor first became public, members of the Change 4 Bartholomew County Animal Advocacy group criticized Bartholomew County Animal Control Officer Mark Case for returning Thor to Collins after his first treatment at the center.

Thor would eventually became a symbol for the animal advocacy group that has already made multiple presentations to the Bartholomew County commissioners and the county council.

“We want ordinances that make sure animals in our county are protected and living in humane conditions,” group member Nancy Ray said last year.

After Thor’s death, an initial determination indicated the canine had been going through a process called muscle wasting. Essentially, that meant the canine was starving to the point that his liver was processing any muscle content he had, according to a probable cause affidavit.

While an arrest warrant was issued for Collins on Nov. 10, 2021, it had not been determined whether the dog was wasting away due to neglect or a major health problem.

On Dec. 28, Bartholomew County Deputy Prosecutor Mathew Taylor asked for a dismissal of the case. The request was granted the next day by Bartholomew Superior Court 1 Judge James Worton.

When arrested for the Thor case, Collins was still on probation for a Level 6 felony. On June 24, 2021, he received an 18-month suspended sentence after admitting in court he made a false statement regarding his criminal history on a firearms transaction record.

If Collins had been found guilty of causing Thor’s death, he could have been accused of breaking the terms of his probation and forced to serve the suspended sentence.

But since the charge was dropped and the probation period is now over, the legal issue appears resolved, according to court officials.

About the group

The Change 4 Bartholomew County Animal Advocacy group will continue with their plans to work to change county ordinances regarding the treatment of domesticated animals.

The advocacy group wants the county to adopt ordinances that mirror those adopted by the City of Columbus. Essentially, county regulations are meant to provide animal control only, while the city strives for both animal welfare and control. County officials say they can’t do what the city does because they have a much larger area to cover and too few employees.

Change 4 Bartholomew County is attempting to create a larger presence at meetings of both the Bartholomew County commissioners and the Bartholomew County Council. They will conduct an open meeting to explain their organization’s purpose and position on the issues on Monday, Jan. 31, at 6 p.m. at the 450 North Brewing Co.