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Thursday, Apr 10, 2014County: Middlesex
Alleged: Felix Perez
A 3-month-old puppy rescued by animal control officers Thursday has died.
The puppy, known as Caramel, was found shivering and hiding in a garage after officers Brandon Metz and Joseph Reid responded to a report of a puppy not being properly cared for at a North Brunswick home.
"This is really very upsetting," said Helmetta Regional Animal Shelter Director Michal Cielcsz, who fostered the puppy. "I am just so angry and upset. I only had her a few days, but she was so loving and adorable. She deserved to have her life."
A neighbor had called the local police, who called the shelter, Metz said. The situation was more serious than expected, he said. The puppy, a female brindle boxer, was found in the garage, where junk and debris had to be moved to find it, Cielcsz said
"In my years of doing this, I have never seen anything like this," Metz said. "It took 20 minutes for everyone to find the puppy. They were looking everywhere for it -- upstairs, basement, the garage. Finally, the owner's son, who is about 6, found him. The conditions were horrible. There was urine, feces, takeout plates, old couches in there."
"The puppy was huddled under the garbage trying to stay warm. Every bone in her body showed," she said. "She was just a skeleton and had no muscle mass. She was unable to stand she was so weak. There was no food or water for her. There was no way of knowing when was the last time this poor puppy had anything to drink or eat."
The puppy was taken to Jamesburg Veterinary Hospital, the shelter's emergency veterinary service, and was given a body scale rating of 1 on a scale of 1 to 5, with 1 being the "worse," Cielcsz said.
The puppy also was reported to be in a severe anemic state and extremely dehydrated.
"The puppy's temperature was so low it did not register on the thermometer," she said. "All her levels were severely off. And with all she has gone through, she still attempted to wag her tail."
Initially, it was believed the puppy ate an object in the garage because she was starving and it caused an obstruction in her intestines. On Saturday, Cielscz said that the obstruction had passed and Caramel was "eating and drinking without any problems."
"There was a lot of hope in this puppy," Cielscz said. "She was doing so well. She was even barking yesterday because she was hungry and wanted more food. I was giving her a few little meals. She wanted more."
Cielscz said the puppy, who stayed with her in her office at the shelter Sunday, could not maintain her body heat.
"I had the heat up in the office to keep her warm," she said. "She was playful, rolling over and acting like a real puppy instead of the sick puppy that she was. Then, this morning (Monday), she was down and out. She couldn't metastasize the food. She was just too far gone. Her body just could not take the stress."
Metz said the owner of the house, Felix Perez, 39, of North Brunswick, who had custody of the puppy, was charged with three counts of animal cruelty, including "improper shelter," "no veterinary care" and "unsanitary conditions." A fourth count for "killing a domestic animal" was added Monday.
The first three counts are fourth-degree crimes, while the fourth charge is a third-degree crime, Metz said. Each count faces substantial fines and possible jail time.
"He told the officers that the puppy was not his and that he was holding it for either his daughter or another relative or a friend," Cielscz said. "But I don't care who he was holding it for. He had caring control and custody. If he wasn't going to care for the dog, he shouldn't have agreed to take her. Really, what would it take to feed a puppy? He just didn't feed her. That is all she needed."
Metz added that if "someone cannot afford to feed a dog, they should not have a dog."
"I never saw a puppy starved like this," Metz added.
Cielscz said Perez could receive up to six months in jail, but she does not think the penalty matches the crime.
"It is really not enough for what this poor puppy went through," she said. "You steal a car, you get more time. There is no bringing her back."
Cielscz is thankful that at least in the last couple of days of her life, Caramel knew people could be good.
"So many cared for her these last few days," she said. "This puppy would never have been rescued if it was not for the concerned residents who took the time to care and call their local police to report this. The Jamesburg vet took such good care of her. People here adored her. She saw that people can be good, but she deserved so much more life. There was something about her. We saw life in her. She wanted to live."
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