Sheriff seeks answers in potential animal cruelty case

Published 8:44 am Friday, December 9, 2011

Polk County Sheriff Donald Hill said his department has not stopped investigating a case in which a Columbus family believes their dog was shot in the mouth with an arrow.
“If I can prove this was intentionally done I have no problem going after somebody and putting somebody in jail,” Hill said.
The sheriff said many questions have been raised in the case of the Lupo family’s dog, Baron, with few answers.
According to a follow up report, the arrow was lodged in the soft tissue of the dog’s cheek, not in its throat. The dog also suffered hypothermia, which the state veterinary office said could have also been caused by eating spoiled meat.
In canines, eating spoiled meat can cause botulism and in turn hypothermia, Hill said his office was told.
The sheriff’s office planned to seek a second vet’s opinion Thursday, Dec. 8.
Sheriff’s officers also have questions about the arrow, which was a blunt tip arrow, not the typical broad tip arrow hunters use, and was made out of fiberglass.
“The victims I feel so sorry for, I really do. But we don’t have a definite answer as to how this happened,” Hill said. “We just still don’t know.”
Sheriff Hill has placed a detective on the incident because, if determined to be intentional, this would be a felony case.
So far officers looking into the incident have interviewed neighbors and searched open fields for any further evidence that might lead to a better understanding of how this dog died. The dog was cremated before the sheriff’s office could get any further into the investigation.
“We haven’t stopped [investigating],” Hill said.
Hill said animal control officer Michael Herman has been on vacation, but he has put Lt. Michael Capps on the case. Hill said follow-up on such cases must often go to a separate investigating officer because Herman serves as a civilian, not a sworn officer. This also happens because serving a county of 20,000 people as just one animal control officer can become overwhelming, Hill said.
BLET or Basic Law Enforcement Training meanwhile does not cover animal cruelty law. So the officers with more enforcement power than Herman do not have the knowledge Herman possesses, Hill said.
The sheriff said he also worries about exposing his deputies to potentially rabid animals when they have not been vaccinated. It costs around $1,000 for a single individual to be vaccinated for rabies, he said.
Hill said he has approached the county commission several times about hiring an additional officer to assist with animal control. During this past budgeting process, Hill proposed hiring a part-time person,  but the request was denied.
There were two full-time sworn officers working animal control five years ago, Hill said. But the past sheriff eliminated those positions, leaving Hill with just one control officer.
Hill said regardless of manpower, they are doing whatever they can to find out what happened to the Lupo’s dog. Hill even plans to offer a reward to entice someone to come forward with more information.
He said the department is also looking into a separate case in which a family that lives near the county line says their dog was shot with a bullet 100 yards from their front door.

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