Police say they have found the owner of an abandoned dog and bike that sparked a search Saturday afternoon in the area around Buffalo Park.
The bike owner, an 18-year-old Flagstaff man, was charged with animal cruelty on Monday afternoon, according to police officials.
A hiker was walking her dog in the area of Paradise Road and Grandview at about 7 p.m. Friday, when she saw a bike left unattended at a trailhead with a dog tied up to it.
The woman was concerned for the dog and returned 45 minutes later to find it was still there. She took the dog home but left a note attached to its collar on the bike with her contact information. Concerned that the note might blow away, she came back later Friday night and attached the note with duct tape.
The woman returned in the morning and found the bike and note were still there. That sparked a police search in the area, but no one nearby reported seeing anyone suspicious or in trouble, and no missing person reports had been filed. The woman told police she wanted to keep the dog at her house so it wouldn't have to go to the shelter.
The dog did not have a chip or tags and the bike was not registered.
Police realized the bike had been bought at a local bike shop, and a store manager drove from out of town to track the person down using a serial number.
An investigation revealed that the owner of the bike had taken his sibling's dog, Pepper, with him on a bike ride and then sent a text message to say he had lost the animal.
The man promised to help find it in the morning but then never showed up.
He told police he had been watching the sunset from near Mount Elden and was only some 50 feet away from the dog for five minutes. He didn't have an answer as to why he couldn't see the dog from so close by and didn't cooperate with the investigation.
A police report said that without human intervention, the dog would have been left alone for some 24 hours without food and water.
John Hett is now charged with animal cruelty, a Class 6 felony. He was served a summons to appear in court, but he was not booked into Coconino County Jail.
Eric Betz can be reached at 556-2250 or firstname.lastname@example.org.