SOUTH DAYTONA, FL (WFLA) – The image went viral within a matter of hours – a heartbreaking photograph of a dog with its mouth sealed shut, bound with thick duct tape.
The innocent pup is seen sitting quietly, staring off into the distance. The owner claimed the dog was barking too much. The photo was posted Friday by a woman named Katie Brown from South Daytona. She also shared a message, “This is what happens when you don’t shut up!!!”
Within 24 hours, the post was shared hundreds of thousands of times. So much outrage came pouring in to the City of South Daytona, sources say their server crashed. In addition, concerned citizens were calling the city’s emergency communications center from as far away as Australia. Seven people were called in to work overtime to handle the large number of 911 calls. People were begging the city and law enforcement to find the woman and rescue the dog. The owner, it turns out, was in Avon, Connecticut for the holiday weekend.
The outrage online was massive. Messages flooded Facebook and other websites. Some messages were threat-based, graphic and profanity-laced. “Just hold her head underwater until the bubbles stop,” wrote one man. Another person shared, “I’m coming after you.” “How could you do this to an animal,” one woman wrote, while another message read, “Let’s put tape over your mouth.” Someone even posted a photo of her truck. She told people on Facebook, “It was only for a minute.” Then, in all capital letters, she followed up with, “POINT MADE!”
Police in both Connecticut and Florida are investigating the woman, who also goes by the name of Katharine Lemansky and has a criminal record, according to sources. The dog, she assured investigators, is fine and in good health. However, she still could face criminal charges in Connecticut. If she does, in fact, return to Florida with the dog, animal services is authorized to confiscate the pup.
Just before 3 p.m. Saturday, Torrington Animal Control in Connecticut posted an update on Facebook, stating, “At this time our inbox is not currently working so please bear with us as we try to read through all of your messages. We are still diligently working on tracking down the owner who posted that dreadful picture to Facebook earlier this morning but it appears that she is no longer residing in Avon … or Connecticut for that matter. All new, and pertinent information that we get is being immediately forward to Daytona PD as that is where the suspect is believed to be living/heading. Thank you all for your concern for this animal.”
Katie Brown owns a home in South Daytona, where her son is believed to be living.
“You know it was a stupid act on her part,” says attorney Bryant Camareno, who offered some legal analysis and perspective since he is not directly involved in the investigation. He points out that a State Attorney’s Office might have a hard time prosecuting the dog’s owner since there is no hard evidence that she did this, other than her Facebook post. In fact, he says, her attorney could argue that someone else posted the photo and the message. “Be careful what you say on Facebook, be careful what you post on Facebook or any social media because it can go viral in a heartbeat,” he told WFLA.