The Androscoggin County Humane Society is asking the public to help identify the person who abandoned a dog in the shelter’s parking lot Monday night, before it was hit by a car and killed.

The incident has received increasing attention online, with many animal lovers expressing outrage, since the Lewiston nonprofit posted a security video on its website that showed the driver of a minivan releasing a dog into the parking lot without a leash or tether and driving away, while the dog chases after the car.

“It was about 6:03 when the animal was abandoned,” said Zach Black, the shelter’s operations manager. “We closed at 6, but all the lights were on in the building and we were still here working. There was no attempt to even knock on our door or anything like that.”

The Humane Society posted updates on its Facebook page for a couple of days afterward, saying that it was searching for the dog, which had been seen running loose in the area. Staffers asked the public to call them with any sightings, but not to chase it because it would run away and it wasn’t clear whether the dog, which Black said appeared to be a Labrador retriever-husky mix, would be friendly or hostile.

“The dog is extremely nervous, confused, and becoming exhausted,” staffers wrote on the Facebook page.

Thursday morning, the Humane Society posted that during its morning search for the dog they found it dead near the off-ramp to the Vietnam Veteran’s Memorial Bridge, where it apparently had been hit by a car.

Black said such an abrupt abandonment of an animal is rare at the Humane Society. In his eight years at the shelter, he has seen only a handful of such cases.

On Thursday, the Humane Society’s post struck a chord, garnering the type of online attention stories about animals and pets often seem to generate.

Within hours of it going online, the video received a few thousand views, with only a few hundred sharing the story among their friends on Facebook. But by midafternoon, those numbers skyrocketed, with 132,000 views and climbing. Thousands wrote comments, sometimes brief, other times excruciatingly personal.

Many people used colorful, foul language, while others explained what they’d like to do to the person who dropped off the animal – none of the suggestions was very pleasant.

According to Maine law, abandonment of an animal that results in the animal’s death is a Class C crime, a felony punishable by up to five years in prison.

“I am so (expletive) livid watching this,” wrote Victoria Wilson, who grew up in Bangor but recently moved to Oceanside, California. “I hope this person is caught, and I hope they’re charged for animal abuse, because that is exactly what this is. This poor dog died scared and alone looking for the family that it thought loved him.”

In an interview Thursday, Wilson said she has never even owned a dog – but the thought of mistreating one enraged her.

“I can’t believe it,” Wilson said. “It’s horrifying.”

Kaileigh A. Tara, a former mayor of Lewiston, said she, too, was shocked at the video and condemned the abandonment – but she said that the Internet mob was too quick to judge the person who left the animal behind, without knowing their circumstances.

Tara, 51, said that when she fell on hard financial times a few years ago, she had to surrender a cat that developed medical problems. When it came down to paying for veterinary care or providing food and shelter for herself and her son, she made the decision to give up the cat. Still, she felt intense shame and embarrassment, and suspects that whoever abandoned this dog probably felt the same way.

“The hate and the judgment are so easy to do behind the computer or on a phone,” Tara said. “We don’t know what that person’s story was. We don’t know the desperation, whether it was a really horrible situation and they just couldn’t think. If you can have so much compassion for the animal, at least reserve some judgment of the person.”

Anyone with information about the dog or the person who dropped it off should contact the Lewiston Police Department at 795-9010.

 


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