Update: Prosecutor Requests Independent Investigation Into Dogs’ Heatstroke Deaths

Update (August 31, 2023): More than a month after the heat exhaustion deaths of at least eight dogs who were being transported in an unventilated cargo box truck—during which PETA sent letters, held a demonstration, and encouraged supporters to take action—Lake Station officials turned the case over to the Lake County Prosecutor’s Office, which confirmed that it has requested that the Indiana State Police conduct an independent investigation into the incident. The request signifies major progress in the push to ensure that the Lake Station Police Department (LSPD)—which inexplicably blocked dying dogs from receiving emergency veterinary care—step aside and allow an external party to take over the case. Follow this page for more updates.

Update (August 23, 2023): With no response from city officials regarding an apparent conflict of interest surrounding the LSPD’s handling of the case, more than 20 PETA supporters and concerned citizens converged outside Lake Station City Hall to demand an independent investigation. The protesters gathered in sweltering temperatures—similar to those in which the dogs essentially baked to death in the back of the truck—to call on the LSPD to allow an unbiased third party to investigate the horrific incident. After the demonstration, the LSPD apparently disabled its Facebook page.

Update (August 15, 2023): After learning that the LSPD had deleted a Facebook post discussing the deaths of the dogs, limited the users who could comment on its recent posts, and deleted or hid hundreds of comments referencing the incident or critical of the department’s handling of it, PETA sent the agency a cease and desist letter, demanding that it stop violating the First Amendment. Community members and others—rightfully outraged by the needless suffering and deaths of these dogs—had commented on LSPD’s Facebook page to voice their opinions and concerns, in accordance with their constitutional right of freedom of speech. But rather than addressing these concerns, the LSPD responded by silencing them and removing any acknowledgment of the tragedy—yet another indication that the agency is unable to conduct an unbiased investigation into this horrific incident.

Original post:

On July 27, at least eight dogs died of heat exhaustion while being transported in an unventilated cargo box truck bound for a K-9 training facility. The high temperature that day was at least 91 degrees, and the cooling unit allegedly installed in the cargo compartment of the truck—which was not suitable to transport live animals—wasn’t functional.

This footage was shared by a bystander. The individual who posted it on this Facebook page was not involved in harming these dogs.

At least eight dogs died of heat exhaustion while being transported in this cargo box truck, which was not suitable to transport live animals.

When the individual driving the truck, which confined nearly 20 dogs, pulled into a gas station in Lake Station, Indiana, representatives from the Humane Society of Hobart—the city’s contracted animal control agency—responded immediately. But instead of allowing them to take charge of the scene, ensure appropriate emergency aid for the animals, and conduct a professional criminal investigation, the Lake Station Police Department reportedly blocked their efforts to assist.

The humane society representatives had access to multiple air-conditioned vehicles to get the dogs to immediate care but were forced to stand by while dogs died, vomiting and convulsing from heatstroke. The Lake Station Police Department reportedly wouldn’t allow the humane society to transport the dogs for emergency veterinary care and instead made the animals wait for an ambulance intended for humans. The police also apparently nullified a notice of seizure that the humane society had issued, which would have required that the dogs’ owner comply with all applicable laws before they could be released from veterinary treatment back to his custody.

Shockingly, the police then allowed the driver to leave the scene with both deceased and live dogs improperly secured in the wide-open back of the truck, in blatant violation of law.

The police allowed the driver to leave the scene with both deceased and live dogs improperly secured in the wide-open back of this truck.

Lake Station Police Department Chief James Richardson—who was allegedly responsible for thwarting the humane society’s attempts to help the suffering dogs and conduct an appropriate criminal investigation—apparently has an existing relationship with the owner of the company that was transporting the animals, Michael McHenry. Richardson and McHenry—who was reportedly hostile to humane society representatives at the scene—previously worked together at another Indiana police department. This glaring conflict of interest negates the possibility of an impartial investigation by the Lake Station Police Department.

Thank you for taking action to ensure that an unaffiliated third-party agency take over the case. Please check back for more updates.

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 Ingrid E. Newkirk

“Almost all of us grew up eating meat, wearing leather, and going to circuses and zoos. We never considered the impact of these actions on the animals involved. For whatever reason, you are now asking the question: Why should animals have rights?” READ MORE

— Ingrid E. Newkirk, PETA President and co-author of Animalkind