Complaint about Kosciusko animal control officer turned over to State Police

(photo supplied / Times-Union)

An Etna Green woman’s claim that county animal control officer Jerry Clase stole her dog and shot it has brought back to life controversy surrounding Clase.

Clase has served as Kosciusko County’s animal control officer for the past 32 years. An employee of the county, Clase reports directly to county administrator Marsha McSherry, with employment decisions made by the county commissioners.

In 2010, commissioners investigated 16 complaints made against Clase claiming animal abuse and misuse of authority. He was cleared of any wrongdoing, and at that time, commissioner Bob Conley stood by Clase and the ruling.

The newest allegation comes from Sherry Koser who said she returned home from work on June 19 and couldn’t find her dog. The dog, a 14-year-old boxer mix named Daisy Mae who was tied up in the garage, was gone, she said, so she called her landlord Sherri Shafer.

“She told me animal control came and took my dog because it was suffering,” Koser said. Koser said she called the Animal Welfare League. The shelter didn’t have Daisy Mae, but they did contact Clase.

According to Koser, they handed the phone to her and, “Jerry told me that he shot my dog because that was the best thing for her. Then he started telling me how he had to shoot his animals before and that’s just how it goes.”

Apparently that’s not how it goes if you were to ask any of the 700-plus people who have signed an online petition at asking for Clase to be fired.

That’s also not how it goes if you were to go by the recommendations of the Humane Society of the U.S. which sets guidelines for how situations like this should be handled by local shelters.

Conley told the Times-Union on Sunday the newest allegation has been handed over to Indiana State Police, and that he’s talked to Clase about it.

“Mr. Clase said he felt it was a compassionate thing to do,” Conley said. “The owner was not taking good care of the animal, and it’s been said it’s (the dog) under veterinary care, but I don’t know for sure about that.”

Conley added: “The animal control has the ability to euthanize an animal that is in such dire condition. They do it to deer all the time that are on the road, but when it comes to someone’s pet, it needs to be euthanized.”

Koser admits her dog wasn’t in the best condition, but she also stands firm that her dog was not suffering – a diagnosis she claims is backed up by Public Vet nonprofit founder and veterinarian Dr. Tess Peavy.

Koser was given Peavy’s phone number when she was initially seeking $49 to put Daisy Mae down. However, Peavy told the Times-Union, after speaking with Koser over the phone, care plans changed.

“The dog was doing well except for a huge, massive tumor on its abdomen,” Peavy said. “It was probably a mammary tumor, but we never got that far.”

Peavy said instead of giving Koser $49 to euthanize the dog, she actually raised funds for the tumor surgery and was set to perform the exam early this month.

“The landlord thought the animal was suffering apparently, so the landlord acted with good intention, but she really didn’t have permission to relinquish the dog to animal control,” Peavy said.

Koser’s landlord hung up the phone when asked about the incident by the Times-Union.

“But, if an animal control officer thinks an animal is suffering and needs immediate care, they do have the right to take the animal to the shelter,” Peavy said.

Peavy added it’s then up to the employees of the shelter to make the decision if they think the animal is in pain.

“They would have the option to euthanize it, but taking it out and shooting it is not OK,” she said.

Koser also alleges she went to the sheriff’s department requesting the dog’s remains but was told they’re also disposed of and she “wouldn’t want to see them now.”

Koser said she spoke with KCSO Capt. Travis Marsh. She claims Marsh told her “Jerry Clase has been getting away with this for a long time.”

Attempts to reach Marsh were unsuccessful.

Kosciusko County Sheriff Kyle Dukes told the Times-Union the sheriff’s office is not affiliated with animal control.

“He doesn’t work for us, we don’t have anything to do with him,” Dukes said.

However, Conley said a unanimous, nonpublic decision by commissioners was made to send the investigation to ISP after a request from KCSO to look into the matter.

Koser alleges McSherry’s office phoned her the day after the shooting and apologized to her.

McSherry, Clase’s direct boss, said she cannot comment on an active investigation.

When Conley was asked about Clase’s investigation in 2010, he said, “That was nine years ago, no one wants to be judged by what happened nine years ago, that’s unfair.

“We’re not going to make decisions based on anything other than facts,” Conley said. “We’re not going to have a knee-jerk reaction.”

Koser said she wants justice for Daisy Mae.

“I want to have him prosecuted to the full extent of the law,” Koser said of Clase. “I want him stopped, and if that’s gonna take Daisy Mae, then so be it.”

Multiple attempts to reach Clase were unsuccessful.