A dog named Peanut in Jasper, Indiana, is expected to make a full recovery after sheriff's deputies found him frozen to the ground in sub-zero temperatures.
"He has some sores on his feet where he was pulled from the frozen snow," said Mary Saalman, executive director of the Dubois County Humane Society, which has been caring for the dog. "Other than being underweight, he seems very happy."
Dubois County Sheriff's Department responded to an anonymous call of animal neglect on Monday night when the temperatures dipped to 6 below zero with wind chills as low as 25 below.
According to Stuart Wilson, a sergeant and spokesperson for the sheriff's department, a deputy found two dogs, one chained to a pole out of reach of a barrel used for shelter and another dog, Peanut, described as a Shetland/Jack Russell mix, in a small pen with no food and frozen water.
The dog had been there, with only an unlined barrel for shelter, long enough to become frozen to the ground. It took about ½ hour for the deputy to use warm water to help release Peanut.
Wilson told Pet360 that Peanut was immediately taken into custody, pursuant to Indiana law, which allows the department to confiscate animals deemed to be in immediate danger. As well as being left in sub-zero temperatures, Peanut was emaciated, weighing only about 50 percent of a healthy weight for a dog his size.
The other dog, which was a larger breed dog, did not appear neglected and was taken inside by the owners. "They have since checked and the dog has remained inside," Saalman explained.
Wilson said there were six other small breed dogs inside the house, but those dogs could not be confiscated because they did not appear neglected and weren't in immediate danger.
Saalman plans on contacting the owners to inquire about relinquishing custody of the other dogs, including some puppies that were spotted running on the property, but she is unsure if the people will agree. "At this point, the sheriff's department can't make them," Saalman shared.
"I did receive word this morning that they had relinquished Peanut, so he now belongs to us," Saalman explained. "We have a pretty rigorous adoption process and we've had such interest, we'll probably try to keep him local."
The sheriff's department has filed papers with the district attorney's office seeking charges for animal neglect, which is a Class A misdemeanor, carrying a possible 1-year jail sentence and a $5,000 fine.
"We've recommended charges, but that isn't our call to make," Wilson explained. There is a felony animal abuse statute in Indiana, but to file felony charges, the incident has to involve an animal's death.
"A lot of people are really angry about a dog being left to freeze to the ground and I don't blame them," Wilson shared. "We're following the law, I don't necessarily agree with it, I'm a dog lover myself, but if people want to change the law, they need to contact their state legislators."
Dubois County is a small jurisdiction with about 40,000 residents and only 18 full-time sheriff's deputies, but his department handles all animal control calls. Wilson urges anyone who suspects animal abuse or neglect to call their local law enforcement. "There's no doubt in my mind that if we hadn't gotten there, that dog would have died," according to Wilson.
Update: 50-year-old George Kimmel and 55-year-old Dorothy Kimmel have been charged with animal neglect.