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After dog starves to death, husband and wife face animal cruelty charges

Friday, May 17, 2013 - 9:20 am

Amy Jo Sites, deputy director of Fort Wayne Animal Care and Control, gave a one-word answer when asked how long a basset hound named Miles could have suffered before dying of starvation.

“Months.”

That simple reply, however, isn't the end of the matter. Instead, the death of the dog is the direct cause of legal troubles for a husband and wife who now face matching Class A misdemeanor charges of cruelty to an animal.

The Allen County Prosecutor's Office filed the charges on Tuesday against Justin and Jennifer Bauer, according to the probable-cause affidavits in the case. The charges stem from the moment on Feb. 14 when Justin Bauer allegedly brought the basset hound to Animal Care and Control and requested its disposal, claiming that the animal had passed away sometime on Feb. 14.

According to the probable-cause affidavit, the basset hound was removed from a box, where an animal care specialist “immediately noticed that (the) dog appeared emaciated” before it was photographed and placed in an evidence cooler, pending a necropsy.

Sites said that description barely did justice to the actual condition of the dog.

“We have a rating system, Level 1 through Level 5, with Level 1 being the best and 5 the worst,” Sites said. “Miles was clearly a '5.' He had lost so much muscle mass, his eye sockets had receded until they were about empty. He had a supreme hourglass figure, which is what you see in these cases…you could see his ribs clearly, nearly all of his bones were visible.”

“We don't normally see this level of emaciation,” Sites added. “These are the cases that are really tough.”

The necropsy on the basset hound was performed March 11, according to the probable-cause affidavit, with the official ruling that the cause of death was starvation. The necropsy also showed “a lack of pericardial and perirenal fat, lack of feces in his colon, and minimal ingesta in his stomach, all factors supporting the finding of starvation,” the affidavit claims.

The affidavit also claims that the necropsy shows that “it took weeks, if not months, for Miles to reach his final condition,” and that the dog “had been in a severe state of dehydration prior to his death.” The passage about the necropsy concludes by claiming that the dog's small and large intestines were empty, his ribs and vertebrae were easily visible and that muscle loss was evident about the head.

Jennifer Bauer told investigators from Animal Care and Control that due to her pregnancy, she had moved the dog outside the home in order to prevent him from jumping on her other children and that she had not seen the dog for two weeks prior to being told it was dead.

Justin Bauer told investigators that he and the children were responsible for feeding the dog and that he “would not have gone without food longer than two to three days at a time,” as written in the affidavit.

Justin Bauer also told investigators that Miles stopped eating on Feb. 12 and that he had wanted to observe the animal for a few days before taking him to a veterinarian, but the dog passed away before he could do so.

Sites, though, was unconvinced of that timeline and swore out the affidavit against the couple. She also had some advice for those who might be struggling with the care of a pet.

“There are so many options available. Surrender the dog. At least give him a chance,” she said. “This never has to happen. There are simply too many other ways to handle this.”