A Wake County judge on Friday found a Florida woman guilty of misdemeanor animal cruelty for wrapping duct tape around her dog’s muzzle.
Katharine F. Lemansky’s posting of a photo of the muzzled dog to Facebook unleashed a viral reaction that ended with two Cary police officers charging her with being cruel to the dog. The officers testified that the chocolate lab – Brown – was so well cared for that they did not remove it from the Cary home where the incident occurred.
Before giving Lemansky a 60-day jail sentence that was suspended 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 for the dog and its litter mate and a pet cat, also in her care, the photo in their opinion showed tape wrapped so tight that there was swelling around the edges.
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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 incident occurred in November inside the garage of a Cary house that Lemansky and a male friend visited 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. But 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 that not only were the animals up to date on necessary shots, the officers thought it was remarkable she was able to turn them over so quickly.
Lemansky’s attorney argued that prosecutors had not proved that Brown suffered pain and noted that officers had described the animals as “joyful” when they arrived and did not remove them from the house.
Alex Pulley, an assistant Wake County district attorney, disagreed.
“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.”