Lewiston police plan to summon to court a woman whose alleged abandonment of a dog led to the animal’s death when it was hit by a car.

The woman will be issued a court summons in the next few days, Lt. Adam Higgins said Tuesday. He said police are working with the Androscoggin District Attorney’s Office to determine the appropriate charges.

The woman spoke to a Portland radio station Friday, explaining her actions in an anonymous interview, saying the dog’s original owner wouldn’t take it back after it had bitten one of her young children.

The Greater Androscoggin Humane Society had asked the public to help identify the person who abandoned a dog in the shelter’s parking lot on Jan. 25, releasing a video of the incident taken by a security camera. The woman can be seen ushering the dog out of a minivan and then driving away, with the dog running after the van.

The dog, a Labrador retriever-husky mix, was hit and killed by a car three days later.

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.

The shelter’s video was shared on Facebook and by local media and has been viewed more than 350,000 times with 50,000 people commenting, including some from other countries. Many condemned the woman in terms usually reserved for violent criminals. Several people said they cried when they heard the story.

One woman referred to her as a “murderer.” Another said her children should be taken away.

“I hope this person gets hit by a car and suffers In pain!” wrote one.

“Maybe you or someone you love will get stuck out in the cold and die also,” said another. “Karma for your frozen heart and soul.”

Some people threatened violence against the woman, suggesting that she should be beaten up or run over.

And those who suggested that the woman might have had a reason for leaving the dog also were denounced.

“People were quick to assume the very worst about her and even condemn her to death. I chose to assume a slightly better view and I get crucified along with her,” one woman wrote. “That’s because people have become nasty and uncaring.”

Bill Thornton, chair of the University of Southern Maine’s Psychology Department, said the intense reaction is similar to what happens when children are victims, because both pets and children are dependent on adults.

“An animal, or a child, doesn’t have any control. They depend on adults,” Thornton said. “When you see the adult not taking responsibility, shirking it or being totally irresponsible, then that’s more distressing than when it’s against someone who is capable of being on their own.”

In her interview on the radio station Friday, the woman said the dog’s original owner wouldn’t take it back after it had bitten one of her young children.

She told the radio show hosts that she called Auburn police on Jan. 24, the day before she left the dog, to report that it had bitten her 19-month-old son and that she wanted police to take it to the shelter. In the interview, she said police told her that she couldn’t surrender the dog because she wasn’t its owner.

Auburn Deputy Police Chief Jason Moen disputed that account. Moen said that when an officer responded to the report of a dog bite, the child who was reportedly bitten wasn’t there, and the reported bite had occurred two days earlier. The woman told the officer that the bite hadn’t broken the child’s skin, so police determined there was no reason to quarantine the dog to check for rabies, Moen said.

The officer said the woman asked him to take the dog to the shelter, “but we had no legal right to do so,” Moen said. The woman was told she could take the dog to the shelter the next day, he said.

Police wouldn’t release further details about the case, saying it remains under investigation.

Katie Hansberry, Maine’s director for The Humane Society of the United States, said the dog’s death is a result of multiple breakdowns in the system to ensure that pets receive care.

“This is such a heartbreaking story and the public’s reaction is not at all surprising because we are a society that loves our pets and this was such a preventable tragedy,” she said.

The inability of the dog’s original owner to take it back shows more must be done to allow for pets in rental housing, she said. The society also is working to expand access to adoption and other programs so that dogs that have been aggressive can find a home.

“There is absolutely no excuse for this woman having abandoned the dog and she should be held accountable, but hopefully this story will not just be used to condemn the woman that did the wrong thing, but also to highlight the failures in the system that prevent people and pets from staying together,” Hansberry said.

The Greater Androscoggin Humane Society has established the Abby fund, the name the shelter gave the dog, to provide medical care to stray and abandoned animals. The fund has raised about $4,000 so far, according to Zachary Black, the shelter’s operations manager.

 


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