The owners of a Simsbury business say they’re being unfairly targeted as outrage builds over a photo posted on Facebook of a dog muzzled with electrical tape went viral over the weekend.
A Facebook account under the user name "Katie Brown" posted a photograph on Friday of a dog that looks like a chocolate lab with electrical tape wrapped around its mouth and the message, "This is what happens when you dont (sic) shut up!!!"
The post, photo and Facebook account have not been authenticated and the post has since been removed from the "Katie Brown" Facebook page, but people who looked through Brown’s Facebook friends found one person worked at “Doggie in the Window” in Simsbury, and that quickly prompted negative posts about the Connecticut business.
“When I got online, I was seeing some of the comments. I was just astonished that people could accuse us of the things they were accusing of us,” said Martha Hickey, who co-owns Doggie in the Window with her sister, Ellen.
All of a sudden, the company’s stellar Facebook rating took a hit with bad reviews, including one comment that said, “You cannot be trusted with animals.”
“We’ve worked very, very hard to establish a solid reputation and to have one thing like this potentially ruin that, that hard work you’ve done for 10 years, yeah that hurts a lot,” Ellen Hickey, co-owner of Doggie in the Window, said.
Police in Connecticut and Florida said they have been inundated with messages of outrage and concern because of the Facebook post.
South Daytona Beach police initially told NBC Connecticut on Saturday that the alleged incident was believed to have happened in Florida.
Earlier, South Daytona city officials posted on Facebook that police didn't believe the woman in question was at her local residence in Florida and believed she lived in Torrington. Later, they said she lives in Avon and that the incident happened there.
South Daytona Police Lt. Dan Dietrich said the woman's legal name is Katharine F. Lemansky and that South Daytona police were in contact with her adult son, who lives in Florida, and confirmed that she was en route there on Saturday.
He told police that he last heard from his mother on Saturday morning as she was passing through the Carolinas and believe she might have shut her cell phone off after her phone number was circulated online and some people made threatening calls.
The son told police she moved to Connecticut over a year ago and has been living in Avon with a boyfriend, possibly a fiancé, Dietrich said.
Online outrage about the image had raced across the world.
“We have nothing but compassion for pets. I mean the postings on Facebook were accusing us (of) supporting animal cruelty, which clearly we do not support,” Martha Hickey said.
The owners are hopeful their business will be OK in the long run and they have loyal clients who are standing by them.
Avon police said they and others departments are still on the lookout for Lemansky.