CRAWFORD COUNTY, Ark. (KNWA/KFTA) — A Van Buren couple were arrested after leaving their dog to die in the heat.
James Lemley, 41, and Ashley Lemley, 37, turned themselves in to the Crawford County jail on July 17 for two charges of animal cruelty each.
An officer responded to the couple’s residence on June 25 in reference to an animal check. The officer made contact with a neighbor who said that dogs in the backyard had not been taken care of.
Once in the backyard, the officer noted that the chain link pen that the dogs were kept in was in “extremely poor condition” and that there was no covering or type of shelter.
“The ambient temperature while on scene was in excess of 100 degrees and sunny. The pen did not have any sort of shade and was in direct sunlight. I observed a large great pyrenees that was deceased. The dog was directly against a square piece of wood, and I believed the dog was attempting to use the wood as shade before succumbing to the heat,” the officer’s report said.
A second dog, a chocolate lab, was reportedly still alive and “attempting to find shade.”
The responding officer said that the dog appeared to be extremely overheated and struggling to breath. The lab was later taken in by animal control and was examined for heat related issues.
The officer wrote in his report that the backyard was in disrepair, with unkempt grass and trash everywhere.
“It was apparent that the Lemleys made no effort to provide sufficient shade, food, or water to the dogs in order for them to cool down. The only food I observed in the pin was scattered around and covered in dirt. I did not observe a bowl for food anywhere in the pen,” the report said.
An incident report says that after observing Ashley’s social media, she appeared to have multiple Facebook live streams dated from June 18 to June 27 in Knoxville, Tennessee.
Police say that on July 10, James called to defend himself, noting that he told someone to care for his animals and to come by every other day to feed them.
“It was apparent that the conversation was for the purpose of defending himself and soliciting advice. I told him that we could not give him any legal advice, and that he would have to speak with his attorney,” the report said.
James and Ashely both pleaded not guilty and are currently out on bond. James has a pretrial hearing scheduled for Nov. 27 and Ashley has a pretrial hearing scheduled for Dec. 4.
James is currently on staff as a classroom teacher at Northridge Middle School in the Van Buren School District.
Brittany Ransom, a communications consultant with the Van Buren School District, says that the district is looking into the issue.
“The district is aware of the matter and is conducting an investigation. As the issue involves personnel, the district will have no further comment at this time due to the confidentiality requirements under applicable law,” Ransom said.
Ransom refused to answer any questions on policy and what will happen next for Lemley.