By Bridgett Hernandez
CHURUBUSCO — A Churubusco man has been charged with five counts of animal cruelty after 14 dogs and puppies were rescued from squalid, cramped conditions on his property.
The dogs – German Shepherds ranging in age from six months to 11 years — were found to be living in small cages and cat carriers stacked inside of a horse trailer and covered with a tarp near Churubusco.
An investigation was first kicked off in late January after the Whitley County Sheriff’s Department responded to a complaint about dogs running loose near the property and was concerned about the welfare of the animals there, according to Whitley County Prosecutor D.J. Sigler.
The investigation has been a coordinated effort between the state veterinarian’s office, the Whitley County Prosecuting Attorney’s office, the Whitley County Humane Society and law enforcement.
The Whitley County Humane Society seized the animals with the help of law enforcement Feb. 26, according to shelter volunteer and board member, Carol Flowers.
“It took hours because it was dark and our staff members were climbing in and out of the horse trailer in the dark using flashlights to get these dogs out. It was a very trying situation for our staff,” she said.
The dogs were living in filthy conditions. Because the dogs’ cages were stacked on top of one another, the animals were covered in urine and feces, Flowers said.
The dogs were also severely dehydrated.
“When they opened the doors, it was very simple to get the animals out because we had water there and they just flocked to the water,” she said.
The dogs are now at the Whitley County Humane Shelter and their condition is much better than when they were rescued.
“It’s amazing how quickly an animal can rebound once they’re given proper food and water,” Flowers said.
Ronald L. Drudge II, 45, has been charged with five counts of animal cruelty and a warrant has been issued for his arrest. A class A misdemeanor is punishable by up to one year in jail. If the public has any information about his whereabouts, they can contact the Whitley County Sheriff’s Department.
Sigler said when animals are seized, the state veterinarian is called in to do an assessment of the animals and report to the court their status and their long-term prognosis. He added that in the course of the prosecution, he wants to make certain that the humane society is reimbursed for the cost and care of the animals and that the humane society and the county don’t bear the financial brunt of the alleged criminal behavior.
Flowers wants the public to know that the dogs are not up for adoption.
“Do not call the shelter because these animals are not available for adoption,” she said.
First and foremost, legal issues would have to be resolved before adoption would be possible. Secondly, some of the animals are going to need extensive rehabilitation. They don’t have social skills and they’re not house broken.
“It’s going to take some time to get them to understand what a leash is,” Flowers said.