Jennings County investigators say dumped dogs were shot

Wooded area where a dozen dogs were found dumped. (WTHR Photo/David MacAnally)

JENNINGS COUNTY, Ind. (WTHR) — Jennings County investigators say some of the 12 dogs found last month dumped in a wooded area were killed with a pellet rifle.

They were found at the end of February, just off a gravel road near what neighbors call "Zenas Slab" outside of Westport, Indiana. It's believed all the dogs were disposed of at the same time.

Eleven dead dogs were found in one spot, thrown to the ground, one stuck in the "Y" of a tree. Another adult dog's remains were found days later, just up the road.

Mercy Rescue provides services for animals in Jennings County. (Photos: Anne Poore/Mercy Rescue)

Now Jennings County police know how they died.

"It was determined they were shot by an air gun. Probably a high powered air rifle," Detective Sgt. Jeff Jones told Eyewitness News Monday.

He added that the shots appeared to have been intentionally fired and at close range, targeting the head. Nine of the dogs were shot with the pellet rifle. The others died of of blunt force trauma.

Police say a driver reported finding the dogs. Neighbors were stunned when they heard about the find.

Travis Josephson lives not far from the site. His family provides foster care for dogs up for adoption. "It's very disturbing. It's definitely ill-minded. Somebody's got some issues. Makes you kind of wonder who is going up and down the roads and what's going on," he told Eyewitness News last week.

Animal control officers and the Jennings County Sheriff's Department are asking the public for tips that could lead to a suspect.

"The community has been very helpful in getting information about this case to us. We were able to take some of those leads and tips generated by the community, which led us to persons of interest at this point," Sgt. Jones said. "At this time, the investigation is still going forward." Jones called the case "disturbing."

A decision about charges will come from the county prosecutor.

Police are still looking for a motive. They don’t think dog fighting was involved because the animals did not have injuries typical of such cases like injured, bitten ears. They also were smaller animals. Police say the nine mixed-breed pups were from two weeks to three months old. There's no sign their deaths involved any ritual.

"I've heard lots of people, they are so angry about this, and being angry is good because it usually brings action about," said Anne Poore, who works with Jennings County’s Mercy Rescue program. The group arranges pet spaying and neuter for owners who can't afford it. Anne shared photos of Mercy shuttling dogs and cats to a Bloomington vet for care.

"The situation that happened, it sickens me to think that that went on in our community. We have an issue when we have dumped animals or neglected ones. I think our community can do better," Poore said.

Mercy works with animal control agencies to help dogs like Piper, fostered by the Josephsons.

“There are tons of people who would like to have," said Poore. "Dogs are great."

If you have information, you're asked to call the Jennings County Sheriff’s anonymous tip line at (812) 346-0342.

You can learn more about Mercy Rescue by clicking here. The organization is taking another group of animals for spaying and neutering Tuesday.

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