A judge in Wake County, N.C., on Friday found a Florida woman guilty of animal cruelty for wrapping duct tape around her dog’s muzzle.
A photo of the dog posted to Facebook by Katharine Lemanksy unleashed a viral reaction that ended with two Cary, N.C., police officers charging her with being cruel to the dog. The officers testified that the dog, named Brown, was otherwise well cared for so they did not remove it from the Cary home where the incident occurred.
Before issuing her decision and sentencing Lemansky to 12 months of supervised probation, District Judge Jackie Brewer said: “This is one of those cases where a picture’s worth a thousand words.”
The two Cary officers, Rachel Williams and Shelly Smith, testified that though many things had impressed them about Lemansky’s care of the dog and its littermate and a pet cat, the photo in their opinion showed tape wrapped so tightly that there was swelling around the edges.
The caption attached to the photo was: “This is what happens when you don’t shut up!!!”
The image, which was removed from Lemansky’s Facebook page amid the outcry, whipped up a storm of negative comments and people seeking justice for the dog. It was shared more than 300,000 times.
Soon after the photo went up, another post appeared on the page: “Don’t panic everyone it was only for a minute but hasn’t barked since … POINT MADE!!!”
Lemansky, who came up from Florida for the trial, announced immediate plans to appeal the verdict.
The incident occurred in November in the garage of a Cary house that Lemansky and a male friend were visiting on their way south to Florida.
Lemansky, 45, told Cary animal cruelty investigators that she had taken the photo as a joke that was meant only for her son. She said she posted it to the wrong site and received so many negative responses that the volume of social media notification messages coming into her phone kept her from using it for a while.
Lemansky told the officers she left the tape on for 15 to 20 seconds, and had done so because Brown was barking.
The officers acknowledged that they found no signs of hair loss or injury to Brown when they investigated the incident. They also noted that Brown did not seem to be afraid of Lemansky.
Lemansky had the veterinarian records for her pets with her, and Williams and Smith testified in the hour-long hearing Friday afternoon that they thought that was unusual but admirable.
The defense argued that prosecutor Alex Pulley, an assistant Wake County district attorney, had not proved that Brown suffered pain.
“Of course the dog cannot be here and tell you it felt pain,” Pulley told the judge in his closing statement. Pulley argued that Lemansky wrapped the tape around the dog’s muzzle to punish it, and by doing so, put it in a position where it could not eat or drink.
“She did this, your honor, for no other reason but to punish,” he said.
Anne Blythe is a reporter for The News & Observer.
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