Police in North Carolina have charged a woman with animal cruelty who is accused of posting a photo on Facebook showing a dog muzzled with electrical tape that sparked outrage and went viral.
A Facebook user with an account registered to "Katie Brown" posted a photograph on her Facebook wall Friday of a dog that looks like a chocolate lab with electrical tape wrapped around its mouth and the message, "This is what happens when you dont (sic) shut up!!!"
Cary, North Carolina police charged Katharine F. Lemansky, 44, with animal cruelty after she was tracked there by several law enforcement agencies in three states and admitted to police that the incident happened in Cary, according to a statement released by the town of Cary, North Carolina on Monday night.
Police in Cary reached Monday night did not know if she was being represented by an attorney.
“Taping the dog’s muzzle shut was a terrible decision on Ms. Lemansky’s part, and charging her with animal cruelty under North Carolina law was the right thing to do,” Cary Police Captain Randall Rhyne said in a news release.
But the dog, who police identified as "Brown," will not be taken away from Lemansky, Rhyne noted. Neither will Brown's littermate.
“At the same time, it’s important to also note that our animal control officers who physically examined both Brown and her littermate found the dogs to be very well cared for, which is why we did not and could not remove them from the owner," Rhyne said. "The dogs are current on their shots, spayed, and microchipped. They are clean and well-nourished and appear to be comfortable in their surroundings. And there were no signs of injury to Brown’s muzzle, not even detectable hair loss.”
The post was shared hundreds of thousands of times between the time it went up on Friday and the time the post was pulled down on Sunday.
Cary police worked with law enforcement agencies "across two states" to determine whose jurisdiction the case was in and pursue a quick resolution to the situation that had prompted public outcry and messages to local officials from thousands of people across the globe."
Police in Avon and Torrington, as well as South Daytona, Florida, were inundated with phone calls and emails from people concerned about the Facebook post of the dog, claiming the photo to be evidence of animal cruelty and calling on police to do something. All three departments launched investigations and have been working together for the past few days to track down the woman behind the Facebook post to find out what happened and where. Messages and information had circulated claiming she lived in those places.
South Daytona police first launched an investigation at 7:19 p.m. on Friday after the department received numerous calls referencing a woman going by the name "Katie Brown" posting a photo of a chocolate lab with its mouth duct-taped shut on Facebook.
Lt. Dan Dietrich, of South Daytona police, said police then determined the woman's legal name is Katharine F. Lemansky.
Police in South Daytona got in contact with her adult son, who lives in that town. He told them his mother moved to Connecticut over a year ago and has been living in Avon with a boyfriend, possibly a fiancé, Dietrich said. He told police Friday that she was staying in North Carolina and was headed down to his place in Florida, but that he didn't know where she was at the time of her Facebook post.
Meanwhile, back in Connecticut, Avon police police went to the "so-called residence" that police believe she was associated with in the town, but that "she has not been there" and police are unclear on "the last time she actually was at the home." NBC Connecticut also went to the house, but no one answered the door.
“We have received an outpouring of telephone calls and e-mail about the recent Facebook posting of a dog with its mouth duct-taped closed. We thank everyone for their concern. The Avon Police Department Animal Control Officer is actively investigating this case and we want to assure you that we take all cases of animal abuse very seriously,” Avon police said in a statement on Monday.
Police went to an address Facebook messages said she may be at in Daytona Beach, but authorities in that jurisdiction reported she was nowhere to be found.
Daytona Animal Control also reported getting tens of thousands of messages and calls from around the world, as far as Canada and Australia, about the Facebook post of the tape-muzzled dog.
Then, South Daytona police called authorities in Cary, North Carolina to notify them the woman behind the "disturbing photo" might be there. Within an hour, Cary police sent animal control officers to look for Lemansky.
Cary police located Lemansky at a place on Churchview Street and charged her with Class 1 misdemeanor cruelty to animals after she admitted to police that she duct-taped her dog's mouth shut at the place she was staying at in Cary, police said.
Online outrage over the post has also affected at least one business in Simsbury, Connecticut that reported being unfairly targeted with criticism over an employee's alleged association with the woman accused of posting the photo of the tape-muzzled dog.
Lemansky could face a fine and as many as 150 days in jail, Cary officials said. She is scheduled to appear in Wake county court in North Carolina on Dec. 14. Police said no further charges are pending.
Photo Credit: Screenshot via Facebook