JEFFERSONVILLE — A Clark County family is seeking answers and one of two dogs who has been missing since April in a case where a detective requested a prosecutor’s review after conducting multiple interviews with two animal control employees.
Jonie Stricker, who resides near Charlestown, said she was informed the Clark County Prosecutor’s Office declined to press charges in the case. She still believes Clark County Animal Control acted inappropriately after seizing her two German Shorthaired Pointer dogs after they were collected from a neighboring property on April 24.
The Clark County Sheriff’s Department investigated Stricker’s claims. According to an investigation report obtained by the News and Tribune, Clark County Animal Control officers Mike Ettel and William Draper were interviewed multiple times and claimed the dogs were a nuisance to the community.
In the investigation summary, the detective wrote that Ettel and Draper “have not been forthcoming with information on the whereabouts of Mrs. Stricker’s missing dog Cabela.”
The detective requested the prosecutor’s office review the claims against Ettel and Draper for potential charges of theft and official misconduct. A message left with Clark County Prosecutor Jeremy Mull on Thursday hadn’t been returned as of Friday afternoon.
Two missing dogs
The information about the case is based on multiple interviews with Stricker, her comments before the Clark County Commissioners on Sept. 4 and the sheriff’s department’s investigation report. Messages left Friday for animal control and at the J.B. Ogle Animal Shelter hadn’t been returned by the end of the day.
According to Stricker, the two dogs, Willow and Cabela, got out of her family’s house by mistake sometime on April 23. Stricker said she posted lost dog posters and shared social media posts about the missing German Shorthairs.
With the help of friends and research, Stricker said she eventually discovered that Willow was being advertised for adoption by an animal rescue operation out of Illinois.
According to Stricker, who also made the same statement to the detective as recorded in the investigation report, she contacted the owner of the rescue who denied having possession of Willow and subsequently the photo of the dog was removed from the website.
A screen shot of the posting provided by Stricker shows the dog’s adoption fee was $795. The dog was listed under a new name and the description said she was up for adoption because “My family could no longer care for more due to their failing health issues.”
Stricker said she contacted a police department in Illinois about the dog and she was advised to also speak with a local agency about the issue.
Stricker claims she located a number on the post about her dog that ended with the letters JB. She said she found another dog on the rescue website with the same ending letters, and that she eventually located that dog at J.B. Ogle Animal Shelter in Jeffersonville.
According to the investigation report, Stricker contacted the shelter and was told her dog, Willow, wasn’t there.
From there, Stricker said she reported her concerns to Draper and animal control, who advised her to speak with the sheriff’s office. According to interviews described in the investigation report, Draper knew that Stricker’s two dogs had been seized but was advised by his superior, Ettel, not to tell her because he did not have to give out information about animals that had been placed in a rescue.
In the investigation report, Ettel describes the dogs as nuisances. In one of the interviews, the detective wrote that Ettel described Stricker as an “irresponsible pet owner, whose dogs kill neighborhood pets and chickens.”
Stricker denied the claim and said there was only one other instance she was aware of where animal control had been involved with her dogs.
One dog found
Through hours of searching dog adoption posts on social media, Stricker said she found a lead on Willow. The dog was being held at a shelter in Sulphur, Kentucky, which is about 35 miles from Jeffersonville.
Stricker said she immediately drove to the shelter with her sister and there they located Willow.
The director of the shelter told Stricker, according to the investigation report, that the dog was being held for transport to the rescue operation in Illinois.
According to the director’s statements during his interview with the detective, the Kentucky shelter had been contacted by the rescue about holding a dog from Clark County Animal Control until it could be transported to Illinois.
In the interview, the director said he met two men who were wearing Clark County Animal Control uniforms at the Joe’s Crab Shack parking lot in Louisville where he took possession of the dog.
When asked by the detective if anything seemed odd about the meeting, the director said the workers failed to provide any paperwork or screening information for the dog which is “customary in the dog transportation business.”
Stricker said the dogs were microchipped with her correct phone number and identifying information.
The detective interviewed the owner of the rescue who stated they regularly try to find homes for dogs in kill shelters in five states. The director said, according to the investigation report, that she remembered being contacted by someone with Clark County Animal Control about taking in a dog who had been surrendered by an elderly couple from Wisconsin.
The rescue owner told the detective she regularly conducts business with J.B. Ogle but that she contacted the Kentucky shelter because the Jeffersonville location wasn’t accepting dogs at the time due to COVID-19.
The owner told the detective that Stricker had been hostile toward her on the phone and that she had explained the dog hadn’t been brought to Illinois. The owner said due to the number of dogs the rescue places, it’s difficult to keep track of where each one was coming from or going to.
The owner said she never recalled seeing the other missing dog, Cabela.
Two dogs impounded
In the investigation report, Draper and Ettel initially said they recalled dealing with Stricker’s dogs, but they couldn’t remember the exact details due to the volume of calls they make.
The dogs apparently found their way to a property along Fry Road after escaping from Stricker’s house, according to the detective in the report.
The detective interviewed the person who resides at the property and she confirmed the dogs showed up at about 1:30 a.m. on April 24 and killed two of her chickens. The person told the detective she confined the two dogs into a kennel and called animal control.
Draper came to the property later in the day and collected the dogs, the person told the detective. She provided him with a photo of the dogs she took that day and the detective said he confirmed they were Stricker’s.
By county ordinance, there’s a five-day window where animal control is required to hold impounded animals before they are considered to be surrendered.
Based on statements by Draper and Ettel in the report, the dogs were housed along with other dogs at a property owned by Draper for eight-to-nine days after they were collected. They were taken there, according to the animal control officers, because J.B. Ogle wasn’t housing animals at the time due to remodeling and COVID-19 closures.
On April 29, the fifth day after the dogs were impounded, the detective states that Draper actually shared a missing dog post by Stricker. The date of the dog transport in Louisville was May 1.
In one interview, which occurred on June 4, Ettel told the detective that he along with Draper had transported the dogs to the meeting site where they were “dispersed into several different vehicles for transportation to animal rescue facilities.”
“Officer Ettel explained that at the time they were contacted by Mrs. Stricker the dogs had already been held the five days required by county ordinance and had been transported to animal rescue,” the detective stated in the report.
“Officer Ettel stated that once a dog is placed in a rescue it is like being in a witness protection program. Officer Ettel explained that is done to protect the new adopters and because sometimes people are afraid of getting a leash law ticket, so they do not call about their dogs.”
One dog still missing
Cabela still hadn’t been located as of Friday.
In a June 9 phone interview, Ettel told the detective he couldn’t recall where the other dog was sent because there were multiple rescue organizations at the meeting site that night.
He also denied receiving any monetary donation or fee for arranging the transportation.
“Officer Ettel stated that if he knew the location of Mrs. Stricker’s missing dog he would drive there now and get it,” the detective states in the report.
In his summary, the detective writes that he was provided a transportation roster from the night in question that showed two German Shorthaired Pointers were slated to be transported. Willow was scheduled to go to the Kentucky shelter, where she was later recovered, and Cabela was listed for transport to a second rescue in Illinois.
The detective said he spoke with the director of that rescue who said she informed the organizer of the transfer that she wouldn’t accept the dog because it didn’t have health paperwork. The director said she didn’t recall seeing the missing dog on the night of the dropoff.
Stricker said she’s afraid that Cabela may have been euthanized, but that she would at least like to know if that were the case to bring some closure for her family.
In the summary, the detective wrote that “Ettel and Draper have not been forthcoming with information on the whereabouts of Mrs. Stricker’s missing dog Cabela” and that further attempts to obtain information from the Illinois rescue operation had been unsuccessful.
Though apparently no charges will be filed in the case, Stricker is still seeking answers from governing bodies. During the Sept. 3 commissioners meeting, she was told the matter is being investigated as a personnel issue.
Clark County Attorney Scott Lewis explained that the county has ordinances regarding animal control, but that it doesn’t create policies for the shelter. He said Jeffersonville controls the shelter and the county has an agreement for housing animals there.
Stricker posed several questions about the situation, including why impounded animals would be kept at an off-site location, why dogs would be transported across state lines without paperwork and how pets could have been set to transfer to a rescue without notifying the owner.
“The stories are all contradictory, so it’s not easy to sort out,” Lewis said.
Stricker said the family will continue to search for answers.
“We followed the crumb trail and got one back,” she said. “The other is still missing to this day.”