An investigation by the Seymour Police Department has resulted in the arrest of a city man on animal cruelty and theft charges.
Mark Allan Hammond, 54, faces two Level 6 felony charges, punishable by six months to 2½ years in jail upon conviction.
He was arrested Monday and booked into the Jackson County Jail in Brownstown at 2:17 p.m. without bond.
The investigation by Animal Control Officer Chuck Heiss began after police responded to a report of a dog found in a dumpster behind Taqueria La Mejor, 108 E. Tipton St., Seymour, on the evening of March 8.
When Officer Ryan Cherry arrived at the store, he was led to the dumpster, shined a light inside and saw the dog. One of the store’s employees crawled through a small opening on the side of the dumpster, picked the dog up and placed it in a carrier.
The dog was still alive but shivering cold and covered in dirt and sludge, Cherry said.
Given that the height of the door on the side of the dumpster was high for that small of a dog to jump in, Cherry said it appeared someone put the dog in the dumpster.
He then transported the dog to the Humane Society of Jackson County in Seymour. It took about 20 minutes for him and Cpl. Devin Cornwell to clean the dog off, dry him off and get him food, water and a blanket.
Heiss said Julie Zickler, director of the Humane Society of Jackson County, determined the dog had a microchip, allowing her to track its ownership history.
After ownership was verified, the dog, named Dallas, was released to its owner, Donna Coffey of Seymour, on March 9.
In an interview with Coffey, Heiss said he learned she had a dispute with Hammond at her apartment the night of March 7. The dog followed Hammond when he left, and out of spite, he put the dog in the dumpster, Heiss said.
Heiss also collected evidence near the dumpster behind the store, which is a couple of blocks from Coffey’s apartment. Sgt. Ryan Huddleston helped secure video surveillance, which Heiss reviewed.
That showed the dog being placed in the dumpster by a man.
Once Heiss was able to make contact with Hammond, he and Detective Brian Moore conducted an interview, during which Hammond confessed to putting the dog in the dumpster.
Information gathered in the investigation was submitted to the Jackson County Prosecutor’s Office, which reviewed the case before filing the charges against Hammond.
Heiss was there Monday when Hammond was arrested by Sgt. Jack Swindell.
Heiss said the Humane Society played a big role in the case along with all of the officers involved.
The video surveillance also helped, he said.
“It was huge, absolutely huge,” Heiss said.
“Without that, it was going to be very difficult to make the case. Although I had identified the suspect, the video was a huge part in putting the case together.”
When a person becomes a pet owner, Heiss said he or she has a legal, moral and ethical obligation to provide care for it. Just because Hammond wasn’t the owner, Heiss said it doesn’t relieve him of the responsibility to treat the animal ethically and humanely.
Heiss recently attended training to become certified as an animal cruelty investigator.
“This has been a huge step forward for the city of Seymour in terms of their animal control program to have somebody that is now trained, equipped and prepared to deal with these types of circumstances,” he said.
Coffey said she’s glad the person responsible for the crime was arrested.
Now, Dallas doesn’t stray away from her.
“He stays near me constantly,” Coffey said. “He doesn’t want Mommy to leave him at all. He knows when I’m getting ready to go out the door, he wants to leave, too.”