Dog warden charged with animal cruelty
WAVERLY --The Pike County dog warden is facing animal cruelty charges after live puppies were found in a bag at the pound Tuesday.
Randy Mustard is set to be arraigned on 11 counts of animal cruelty, all first-degree misdemeanors, at 9 a.m. Monday in Pike County Court. Mustard confirmed Wednesday he has been suspended, effective today, from his dog warden job pending the outcome of the case. He's been employed as a warden for nearly a decade.
The charges stem from a complaint made Tuesday to the Pike County Sheriff's Office. Maj. Jeremy Masters said a man and woman had been at the pound, located off Alma Omega Road, looking for a dog when they heard whimpering coming from a trash bag.
Masters responded to the scene and said they found an adult female dog dead inside the bag, one dead puppy and 10 live puppies who were young enough their eyes hadn't opened yet.
During his investigation, Masters said he spoke with an employee who had been placed through Job and Family Services to work at the shelter and had no formal training. The man allegedly told Masters the mother dog had died and Mustard told him to "bag them up" and throw them out, including the puppies. He alleged Mustard never administered a lethal injection to euthanize the puppies, Masters said.
Mustard told the sheriff's office and CentralOhio.com on Wednesday that he had administered the lethal injection to the puppies and told the employee not to discard them until they had died.
Mustard provided Central Ohio.com with a copy of a kennel card he said was made when the dog and her 11 puppies were dropped at the pound Monday. According to the card, a Beaver man had dropped off the dogs and indicated they were strays.
Mustard said he was off that day but was called when the mother dog died. He said she was extremely skinny and was not in good condition. He said he gave orders for the dog to be placed in a bag and put outside until it could be disposed of at the landfill, the Ohio Environmental Protection Agency's approved disposal method.
On Tuesday, Mustard said he looked at the puppies and determined he did not think they would survive and administered the lethal injection.
"I told one of the workers, I said don't put them in the bag until they pass away," Mustard said.
After the sheriff's office arrived and the puppies were discovered, Mustard said they placed them back into cages until they died. Mustard said he sent the employee home because "I don't want him here if he's going to do that."
"I'm the boss. I'm in charge, so someone has to take the blame," Mustard said.
Mustard maintains that he was not in the wrong and said he has been working closely with Pike County Pet Pals during the past three years to minimize the numbers of dogs he has to euthanize.
In 2011, Pet Pals president Wayne Dovenbarger, who was at the pound Wednesday, said they received 980 dogs from the pound. While Dovenbarger said he has experienced some shelters having a day where they euthanize, he hasn't seen that at the Pike County pound.
"I haven't hardly had too many dogs put down, maybe 50. ...I'm a dog person, too. Putting one to sleep hurts me, too," Mustard said.
Pike County Prosecutor Rob Junk said his office does not believe Mustard's version and that the employee is not a suspect. Masters collected video and photos from the scene, but they have not been released because they have been logged in as evidence, Masters said.