It was a miserable day in Demotte, Indiana, bitterly cold with freezing rain pelting the ground. But Dana Drew’s dogs wanted to go outside anyway, so she let them into her fenced backyard for a few minutes. It was about 5:15 p.m. on Monday, December 28. It was also last time she’d ever see her three Huskies — Storm, Lola, and Buster — alive.
A few minutes later, Drew noticed they were missing. The storm had caused erosion that allowed them to escape underneath of her gate. She went out onto her porch and smoked a cigarette, figuring her dogs would turn up soon.
Drew was so distraught about her missing dogs that she took the next day off work. She spent all day looking for them. She also posted pictures of them in various Facebook groups she belonged to, including “Lost And Found Dogs Of Indiana.”
At about 9 p.m. on Tuesday, she received a call from a couple in a nearby town. “Their daughter had been on Snapchat and a friend of her friend had posted a picture of three dead dogs on the back of a truck saying ‘this is what I come home to,'” Drew told ThinkProgress in an interview.
The girl told her parents about the photo and they connected the story to Drew’s post on the Facebook group. The boy was from Demotte. They sent her a screenshot of the Snapchat and Drew saw Storm, Lola, and Buster, bloody and piled on top of each other.
From there, Drew was able to use the Facebook group to identify the boy’s full name and address. She then called the DeMotte Police Department.
Soon afterward, she got a visit from DeMotte Assistant Police Chief Steven Musch, who had visited the boy’s home. Musch determined her dogs were killed not by the boy but by his stepfather, Randy Wall.
Wall told the police that he shot the dogs to protect the deer that he breeds on his property, which is about a mile from Drew’s house. Allegedly the dogs were “trying to get under the fence to get to the deer.”
“Randy got on his four-wheeler and tried to chase them off and as a last resort had to shoot all three of your dogs,” Musch said, according to Drew.
Drew was stunned. “How do you shoot three dogs?… This was a dog hunt,” she told the officer.
“No ma’am, dogs kill deer,” Musch replied.
Drew told Musch that her dogs lived in a subdivision and would be terrified of deer.
“Ma’am, he had every legal right to shoot your dogs.”
When Drew asked for her dogs’ bodies, Musch reached into his car and handed her three bloody collars. Drew asked where her dogs were and Musch told her Wall “burned them.”
Drew asked Musch if he was really okay with Wall’s conduct. “Ma’am, I have two dogs. But it’s the law. And he really feels bad about it,” he said before leaving.
Drew’s account of their conversation is largely reflected in a press released that was issued by the Demotte Police Department on December 31.
CREDIT: Demotte Police Department
The release references the Indiana criminal code regarding the killing of domestic animals. Under Indiana law, it is legal to kill a domestic animal if someone “reasonably believes” that killing the animal is necessary to “protect the property of the accused person from destruction or substantial damage.”
According to the police statement, however, Wall shot the dogs while they were still outside of his fence. There is no evidence that the dogs posed any danger to the deer at the time they were shot. By Wall’s own admission, he was able to scare them away from the fence, at least for a time, with his four-wheeler. So it appears there were alternatives available.
Wall’s conduct after the shooting also raises serious questions. Drew told ThinkProgress that all the dogs had tags with identification and the number of their veterinarian. But instead of attempting to get in touch with their owner, Wall burned the bodies of the dogs and made no effort to contact Drew prior to the police arriving at his door.
In 2016, the FBI will begin tracking cases of animal cruelty nationally for the first time. Police departments will “will be required to report animal-related crimes to the national database.” They will be categorized as “crime against society.”
The new FBI effort is designed to combat indifference to crimes against animals among law enforcement. Years ago, “[i]f there were an animal crime, we would just send it over to animal control or ignore it,” John Thompson, deputy executive director of the National Sheriffs’ Association said. Thompson pushed the FBI to begin tracking animal cruelty.
The story of Drew’s dogs is beginning to generate significant attention online. A petition on Change.org has attracted over 8,000 signatures and a private Facebook group, “Justice For Storm, Lola and Buster,” has nearly 6,000 members and is a hotbed of activity.
The conversation on Facebook between Drew and her supporters hints that what actually occurred at Wall’s house that night may have been even worse. Drew and her husband Kyle Butler allege that Wall’s neighbor witnessed the shooting of their dogs and contacted them with his story. In this version of the events, Wall hunted the dogs down on his four-wheeler for twenty minutes, firing dozens of shots and ultimately killing them outside of his own property. The neighbor is afraid of Wall, according to Drew, and doesn’t want to speak publicly.
The police could easily resolve the discrepancy between what the neighbor allegedly saw and what Wall told them by conducting an actual investigation. Instead, they took Wall at his word, handed Drew the bloody collars, and moved on.