Caitlyn, a 15-month-old chocolate staffie, was found wandering along the streets of Charleston, S.C., seemingly looking for her former home. The dog probably had wandered for at least a day, or even two, seeking safety and security after being horribly abused. Her jaw was bound so tightly in thin black electrical tape that the blood flow had been cut off and her tongue was trapped between her teeth, officials said.
The 38-pound dog, a mixed breed but primarily Staffordshire bull terrier, had to go through special surgery to repair the damage. Authorities say the torture lasted up to 48 hours. During the late-spring heat that reached the 80s in the Southern city, Caitlyn couldn't eat, and perhaps more damaging, couldn't drink. Facial tissue died, said Aldwin Roman, director of anti-cruelty and outreach for the Charleston Animal Society.
"To leave this dog in pain, unable to eat or drink, and to now leave her in the position where her life is at stake because she may lose her tongue, is heartbreaking," Roman told the Los Angeles Times on Tuesday. He described the treatment of Caitlyn as malicious.
The shelter deals with an estimated 20,000 animals a year, mainly dogs and cats, but the occasional horse and coyote as well.
William Leonard Dodson, 41, was ordered held in lieu of a $50,000 bond on a felony charge of ill-treatment to animals, Roman said after the bail hearing Tuesday. The charges carry a maximum penalty of five years in prison and a $5,000 fine.
The shelter became aware of Caitlyn in May 2014, when as a 3-month-old puppy she was brought in to be spayed and microchipped, Roman said. A year later, the dog was on the street, her muzzle imprisoned by tape.
Because the shelter had records on the dog, officials knew her name and age, Roman said. But exactly how she ended up on the street last week remains unclear. Officials were still investigating the downward arc of the dog's life.
"The damage happens, then she gets away from the last person and runs back seeking her previous home," Roman said. Someone called 911 and police contacted the shelter, which is under contract to supply aid.
Caitlyn was brought back to the shelter, where the tape was carefully removed to minimize the pain, protect the trapped tongue and preserve evidence.
The dog was transferred to Veterinary Specialty Care in Mt. Pleasant, S.C., where the surgery was performed and her rehabilitation is underway.
The total cost of care, surgery and boarding is expected to reach $5,000 and will be paid out of contributions to a general animal help fund run by the shelter.
Caitlyn "has been sweet the whole time she was with us," Roman said. "She has shown some fear at men, but given what she went through, that's not surprising at all."