Woman who reported 10 abandoned puppies cited for animal cruelty

A Denham Springs woman is accused of lying to Walker Animal Shelter officials Wednesday by saying that 10 puppies she took from her mother-in-law had been abandoned in an ice chest near the shelter.

Harmoni Pelletier, 36, was given a misdemeanor summons Friday on one count of animal cruelty in the case, Walker Police Capt. John Sharp said.

Pelletier had called the shelter and said the puppies had been dumped in a nearby ditch.

“This is a situation where someone was trying to do the right thing and did it wrong,” Sharp said.

Pelletier’s mother-in-law called her a couple weeks ago saying a stray dog had walked up to her home in Springfield and gave birth to the 10 puppies, Sharp said. The stray appeared to have abandoned her puppies.

Her mother-in-law is ill and could not take care of the dogs, so she asked Pelletier to help her.

Pelletier told her mother-in-law she would take the animals to the Walker Animal Shelter. The mother-in-law provided Pelletier the ice chest.

Pelletier was searching for the shelter’s phone number online when she discovered that city ordinances would prevent the shelter from taking the dogs, Sharp said.

The shelter cannot take in animals that are found outside Walker city limits or by nonresidents, Sharp said. The pups were found in Springfield, more than 20 miles to the east of Walker.

Pelletier then decided to call the shelter and say she found the animals abandoned in the ice chest, Sharp said.

Pelletier called police from a home on Ball Park Road in Walker near the shelter, but her last official address is in Denham Springs, Sharp said.

“Her call had the desired effect,” Sharp said. “The animal shelter people went down and looked at them.”

Pelletier, though, became upset and nervous once shelter officials began to tell her about the penalties for animal cruelty violations, Sharp said.

A Walker police lieutenant went to Pelletier’s house for a follow-up interview. Pelletier then admitted she lied and had obtained the puppies at her mother-in-law’s house in Springfield.

“I don’t think she envisioned this becoming the event that it has become,” Sharp said.

Pelletier was given only a summons for one count of animal cruelty because most of the puppies were found in good condition, Sharp said.

Walker officials are investigating two other high-profile animal abandonment cases in the last two weeks.

A man hurled four kittens out of a truck at the shelter Tuesday after officials told him they couldn’t accept the animals because he lives outside city limits.

Authorities about two weeks ago found a crate on U.S. 190 in Walker holding a female black Labrador retriever and seven 5-week-old puppies, Gray said.

Sharp said police were still working leads in those two cases.

Walker Mayor Rick Ramsey expressed outrage at the ice chest incident, calling it a “concrete example of animal cruelty” and “irresponsible pet ownership.”

Ramsey, though, said the incident reflects a larger issue in Livingston Parish — a lack of a parishwide animal control program.

The Livingston Parish Animal Shelter is situated in the town of Livingston, but its operations are limited.

The shelter picks up only vicious dogs or animals related to bite cases, cruelty cases, and abandonment cases that are pending in court. It picks up strays solely in the town of Livingston and provides services only for dogs.

Any resident in Walker can drop off animals at the Walker Animal Shelter. Animals won’t be accepted, though, if they are brought in by nonresidents or are found outside Walker’s city limits.

Ramsey said people with stray animals routinely bring them to the Walker shelter but later abandon the critters after finding out they won’t be accepted.

Ramsey said Walker’s facility is the only one in Livingston Parish that accepts animals surrendered by their owners. He said the Denham Springs shelter is a no-kill facility but won’t take owner-surrendered pets.

“We can’t provide animal control for the entire parish,” he said.

The Livingston Parish Council in 2012 briefly discussed putting on a parishwide ballot a 3-mill property tax to pay for parishwide animal control. The council has taken no action on the measure.

Ramsey, who has previously served on a committee tasked with examining the animal control issue, expressed doubt that a recurring revenue stream for parishwide animal control services will ever be found.

“Until that happens, we’re going to continue to have these problems,” Ramsey said. “It’s not the first time. It’s not the last time.”