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Pet owner must pay $235 following dog's death in backyard but can keep dogs

Woman admitted to care and treatment violations
Posted: 3:57 PM, Aug 05, 2019
Updated: 2019-08-05 19:15:18-04
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INDIANAPOLIS — A dog owner must pay a $235 fine following the death of Flash, a pitbull mix who died while tethered in hot weather in his owner’s west side backyard.

Melinda Ryan, 27, appeared in civil court Monday to face three City of Indianapolis care and treatment violations.

Ryan adopted Flash from the city shelter in October 2018, and the dog died on June 27 at her home on Orchestra Way, records show.

Ryan reached a plea agreement in which she admitted to the care and treatment allegations and must pay a $100 civil penalty and $135 in court costs by November 1.

She can keep her other pets but is limited to owning two dogs—and the pets must be microchipped and fixed, per the agreement.

Ryan also agreed to protect her dogs from excessive heat or cold, bring them into a temperature-controlled facility when the temperature hits 90 degrees or higher, and use tethers at least 12 feet in length with two working swivels.

As she headed into court, Call 6 Investigates asked Ryan why she left Flash outside.

“Please, just go,” Ryan told RTV6.

Ryan’s neighbor Jim Huneycutt called the city numerous times prior to the dog’s death, but no one responded to the home until the pup was already dead.

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Call 6 Investigates asked Huneycutt what he thinks about Ryan’s punishment.

“Not sure what adequate would really be in this case but at least they know what happens when they don’t take care of an animal properly,” said Huneycutt. “Lesson learned the hard way unfortunately.”

Huneycutt said Ryan has other dogs, but he hasn’t seen them tethered outside in the hot weather.

“Seems like they have been taking better care of the remaining dogs by keeping them inside during the hot times of the day,” said Huneycutt.

Ryan did not face any jail time, because she has not been criminally charged in connection with Flash’s death.

It’s unclear if the Marion County prosecutor’s office has made a final determination on whether to charge Ryan with a crime.

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Ordinance violations are handled in civil court, and typically carry lighter penalties.

RTV6 asked Friends of Indianapolis Dogs Outside for their response to Ryan’s punishment, and the group issued a statement taking aim at the city’s $25 minimum fine for care and treatment violations.
"In our city, the penalty for a dog owner's first care and treatment violation is much too low, with the current minimum fine of only $25. A fine that low is meaningless and implies that the dog's suffering and death has little value. The minimum fine for a first violation should be raised significantly, to at least $200. Second and subsequent violations should also be raised, to a minimum fine of $500. Citizens will feel the hit of those higher fines. This is especially important in these kinds of extreme cases where a dog was tethered outside in extreme heat, with no shade or water, suffered for hours, and then died.

In cases like this where the dog died because it was tethered outside, part of the sentencing should be that the owner is restricted from tethering their dogs ever again, at all, under any circumstances.

Also, since this was such an extreme case of suffering and death, there should be routine court-ordered inspection by an animal control officer to ensure that the 2 dogs this owner is allowed to keep are both spay/neutered, microchipped, and being kept in compliance with the care and treatment ordinance."

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Indianapolis Animal Care Services screens all families who adopt animals and also provides a copy of the city’s Care and Treatment ordinance to all pet owners .

“I also told Melinda that Flash’s death was due to her negligence and there was no other excuse,” read the IACS officer’s report.

Here’s what you can do:

  • Talk to your neighbor, if possible, about proper care & treatment
  • If the animal’s life is in immediate danger, call 9-1-1
  • Call the Mayor’s Action Center 317-327-4622
  • Provide as much information as possible including whether the dog has food, water, shade, shelter, whether they’re tethered, as well as an exact address