A dog found frozen and dead in a backyard in Hartford on New Year’s Day was emaciated and had been left out in frigid temperature for days, according to court records on the arrest in the case, and the woman who has been arrested told police that the dog wasn't her responsibility.
Michelle Bennett, 50, of Adams Street in Hartford, was arrested after an anonymous call on Jan. 1 from someone who reported that the dog had been left outside in the freezing cold weather for several days and was possibly dead led to an investigation.
Bennett appeared in court Monday on an animal cruelty charge and prosecutors and advocates for animals want to elevate the charge from a misdemeanor to a felony.
Officers then responded to the Adams Street address, saw a plastic dog house and then noticed a dead, emaciated pit bull mix lying on the ground, with a chain around its neck that was secured to a nearby fence, according to police.
The dog’s ribs and bones were protruding and a dog dish was upside down, around 15 feet away, police said.
The temperature that day was 11 degrees, the yard around the dog was covered in snow and ice and the temperatures in the days leading up to Jan. 1 were in the single digits and sometimes dropped below zero at night, according to police.
The 3- to 4-year-old dog did not have any protection against the cold – there was only a red sweatshirt covered in ice on the ground near the dog, according to police.
When Bennett saw the officer, she approached him and asked ‘Can I help you?”
The officer told her there was a dead dog in her backyard and Bennett’s response was, “Yea I know,” according to the arrest warrant application.
Bennett told police the dog belonged to a family member who was in prison and she’d had the dog, BJ, for around six months.
Police said the family member who Bennett said owned the dog had been in prison since the end of November.
Bennett also said she moved the dog outside after the basement flooded from a burst water pipe and the officer saw that the unfinished basement was covered in ice.
When asked if the dog was ever allowed inside the house, Bennett said no, police said.
Police said there were no signs of food or water for the dog in the basement and Bennett told authorities that the dog was not her responsibility and someone was supposed to come feed the animal every day.
Police noted that Bennett showed no remorse for the death of the dog and said she had not heard it bark “in a few days.”
A veterinarian determined that the dog was underweight, that there were signs of hypothermia burns and the dog had been lying in feces.
Bennett was charged with one count of animal cruelty and the judge has ordered her not to director or indirectly possess any animals.
A friend speaking in her defense said Bennett did not own the dog or the property where it died.
Bennett is due back in court on Feb. 5.