A Charlottesville woman is charged with duct taping a dog's mouth shut and leaving it in an apartment.
After finding the owner and obtaining a warrant, 40-year-old Loretta Watkins has been charged with two counts of animal cruelty.
Police say they found two dogs on September 17 in a house on Vine Street. A large shepherd had its muzzle wrapped in duct tape. They also found a malnourished poodle that weighed just five pounds. A maintenance worker tipped off police that the dogs were in the home.
"They had been left there with no water, no food, had been abandoned for several days," said Lt. Ronnie Roberts with the Charlottesville Police Department.
While the dogs were found in September, the owner wasn't charged until October 31. According to Roberts, the reason why charges came more than a month later is because police were investigating and confirming who the dogs belonged to.
NBC29 went back to the neighborhood hoping to speak with the suspect, but she has since moved. One of the men living in Watkins' old apartment now, who did not want to be identified, is speaking out about what he remembers. He said he saw both of the pets when he was given a tour of the home.
"There was one little skinny one," he said. "It looked like some kind of a poodle or something and it looked like - what am I trying to say - emaciated. It was all skinny and hair was falling out and stuff."
The man says he was also able to see the other dog when he went into the front room. "That one had the tape over its mouth, and I guess to try to keep it from barking or something I guess," he said. "I don't know. It didn't look like a very good situation."
Rennie Depremo, a neighbor, calls it an unfortunate circumstance, but says Watkins really cared about the animals and was working hard to find an apartment where she could take the pets as she dealt with personal problems.
"Apparently she just couldn't find anybody to take the dog," Depremo said. "It's sad, but she was working on it and just didn't find anybody to take the dog."
Depremo didn't know about any mistreatment while she was in contact with Watkins, but has since taken in her cat Mia.
Police stress that people shouldn't be ashamed to ask for help during hard times. Roberts said, "Turn the dog in where someone can take the opportunity to appreciate the animal and to give it its nourishment and love that most animals want."
Both dogs have since been adopted from the SPCA, where we are told they are doing well in their new homes. Watkins' court date is scheduled for November 5.
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Natalie Wilson joined the NBC29 news team as a general assignment reporter in April 2012.Full Story
Natalie Wilson joined the NBC29 news team as a general assignment reporter in April 2012. She is a proud alum of Howard University and is currently pursuing her Master's in Communication at Johns Hopkins. Email/ Full Story