A resident in Lincoln County, Missouri, didn’t think she was breaking the law when she attempted to find a warm place for a dog she found tied to a pole in frigid temperatures.
Jessica Dudding was driving with her family in Lincoln County, looking at Christmas lights on the night of December 27th, when she saw a yellow Labrador retriever tied to a pole in a vacant lot in her neighborhood.
“It was very cold that night and I just couldn’t leave him there,” Dudding told Pet360. The dog was already so cold that one of her boys took his coat off and put it around the canine as they waited for police.
After a Lincoln County Sheriff’s Deputy told her the county had no shelter, he helped her load the dog into her van so she could try the shelter in neighboring Wentzville.
“I couldn’t take him home as I have two other dogs and small children. Although the dog was acting friendly there, we have a small place and I just can’t risk taking a strange dog home around my dogs and kids.”
When she got to the Wentzville police station, she told the officer her story and he took a copy of her driver’s license and contact information. Dudding said she had no idea they were making an actual police report on the stray.
“I told them I found the dog close to Highway 61, which could have been in Wentzville,” Dudding explained.
Dudding understood she was telling a fib by virtue of omission. What she didn’t understand was that the police were taking a report. Filing a false police report is a misdemeanor, of which she was later charged.
A few days later, after posting a photo of the dog on Facebook, someone told her about some “Missing Dog” posters that matched the photo of the dog Dudding found.
She contacted the owners and they went to retrieve their beloved lost dog in Wentzville. The dog had run away from home and gotten lost when the battery on his electronic collar failed.
When the dog’s owner, Bryan Campbell, went to pick up his dog, named Diesel, the Wentzville police told him he owed $250 in boarding fees and a fine for allowing his dog to run loose within the city limits. Campbell said he had no idea who or why someone would tie Diesel to the pole.
The Campbell family called Dudding and begged her to tell the police where she actually found the dog so they could avoid the fine, which was on top of the boarding fees they already paid.
When she did, the Wentzville Police Department charged her with filing a false report. “She reported to us that this happened, and you don’t get to lie to the police,” Wentzville Police Major Paul West told the St. Louis Post-Dispatch.
Douglas Smith, the Wentzville District Attorney, did not return Pet360’s call for a comment on this story.
Dudding said she was shocked that the police department would pursue the matter, but pursue it they did. Dudding had to get an attorney and initially said she would fight the charge, but the working mother of three said that she could not afford to lose time at work or pay a fine.
Dudding pled no contest. Bryan Campbell paid her $24 in court costs and said he felt partially responsible because his dog wasn’t wearing any tags and wasn’t microchipped, a situation he has since changed. “She’s in trouble for helping my dog so I have to have her back on this,” Campbell told the Post-Dispatch.
The Lincoln County Sheriff’s Department said the situation highlights the need for the county to manage its own animal shelter. It is a problem faced by many rural counties and towns.
Dudding told Pet360 she understands people can’t lie to the police and she is glad Diesel is home and safe, but said she is bitter over the situation. “I partly wonder if I should not have just let the Lincoln County deputy deal with the issue after I called them,” Dudding said.
When asked if she would go through this all again, she said she doesn’t know. “I am not sure what I would do if I ever came across another dog tied to a pole. I have a heart and conscience. I would have to make that decision when the time came,” Dudding said. “I cannot take in any animals, but yet I am not sure that I could just walk away.”
Editor’s Note: Photo of Diesel tied to a pole provided by Jessica Dudding.