UPDATE: Woman who abandoned dog killed by vehicle is charged

LEWISTON — A dog that died after being abandoned outside a local animal shelter has pulled the heartstrings of thousands, in Maine and beyond.

Video of the dog being let loose from a car has been viewed nearly 1.5 million times on Facebook, said Zach Black, operations manager of the Greater Androscoggin Humane Society. 

And a fund has been established in memory of the abandoned pet.

“The Abby Fund” will be used to help animals with injuries brought to the Humane Society shelter.

Abby was the name of the yellow Lab-mix that was hit by a car and killed after being dropped off Monday night while people were still working inside the shelter, Black said.

The dog ran loose through Lewiston, dodging cars and running from people until Thursday morning, when it ran into the path of a vehicle on the Vietnam Veterans Memorial Bridge ramp.

Shelter surveillance video shows a van pulling up Monday night, letting Abby loose and driving off as the dog runs after the van.

The video was promoted on the shelter’s Web page Wednesday night.

Since then, Black has been interviewed by Maine newspapers, television stations, a Boston newspaper and a New York news station.

“For 12 hours we were the No. 1 trending topic on Facebook nationwide,” Black said Saturday.

Those views spurred donations.

“The support from all over the country has been huge,” he said. “Someone from Boston kicked off a fund we’re calling the Abby Fund with a $1,000 donation. We are going to use that money toward animals that are injured.”

One day after announcing the fund, “donations are coming in from all over,” Black said. “Dozens and dozens of people have been calling and donating.”

“It’s just so sad, so heartless,” said Donna Zahn of Lewiston, who on Saturday took her dog, Maggie, to the dog park next to the shelter.

“I watched the video a couple of times to see if I could identify (the person),” Zahn said. “After that, I couldn’t watch it. You want to go home and hug and cuddle your dog. The person could have at least put it in the dog park,” which is fenced in. “There were all kinds of alternatives.”

What happened “is just horrible; it’s just a shame,” Auburn Fire Chief Frank Roma. “Pets are part of our families.” 

The reaction shows how much people care about pets, especially in Maine, a state with some of the toughest animal welfare laws in the country, Black said.

Police said Friday the woman believed to have abandoned the dog has been identified and interviewed, and the case has been referred to the district attorney’s office to determine whether charges will be filed. The person’s name has not been released.

Auburn Deputy Chief Jason Moen said the Auburn woman called them a few days before she abandoned the dog to report that it had bitten her child. When police arrived, “she said it happened two days ago; the child was not there,” and the bite had not punctured the skin, Moen said.

Police determined the dog was not a threat and declined to take it, Moen said. “We’re not going to take a dog because someone doesn’t want it.”

Black said if someone has to give up an animal, they can do so at no charge at the Lewiston shelter.

“As long as they live in the Androscoggin community, we take the animal in,” he said. People surrendering animals are asked to make donations if they can and to fill out questionnaires so the shelter can find new homes for the animals.

Black said that on Monday night, he and other workers were about to leave the shelter when they saw the loose dog dart in front of a worker’s vehicle.

“She braked quickly,” Black said. “We got in our cars and worked on trying to get the dog. We saw it running around.”

Shelter workers spent hours trying to catch it, not only Monday night, but during the days and nights of Tuesday and Wednesday. Wednesday night they promoted the video online “because at that point the dog was crossing Main Street, Russell Street, becoming a hazard for everybody. We wanted to get the dog into the shelter, rehab it and find it a new home.”

Shelter worker Pam Durisko said the dog kept returning to the shelter “where she was dropped off. She was just so afraid.” The dog was also seen in the Montello and Bates College neighborhoods.

Volunteers handed out “Missing Dog” fliers with Abby’s photo,  instructing anyone who saw the dog to call the shelter, and not to chase it.

On Thursday, “we knew the dog was on Main Street,” Black said. “A person hit her. They stopped. We were out but didn’t see the accident. “Thursday was tough,” he said.

The dog’s body was brought to the shelter for after-care, burial or cremation. Her remains will be on shelter property as part of the Abby Fund, Black said.

Social media comments have continued to be full of outrage. Some identified the woman who Friday told a radio station she abandoned the dog because her children came first, the dog had nipped one of her children. Social media bloggers claimed the woman recently adopted a puppy while abandoning the dog.

“The comments are what you’d expect,” Black said. “People have high emotions.”

The sad story has helped spread the importance “of being honest and doing the right thing,” Black said. “Bring in your pets.”

Rescuers have more leeway with pets since Hurricane Katrina

AUBURN — It’s not only pet owners who consider dogs and cats part of the family.

Since Hurricane Katrina in 2005, the federal government does too, said Auburn Fire Chief Frank Roma.

Reacting to the dog who was killed after being abandoned in Lewiston, Roma said emergency personnel have more leeway to help dogs and cats in peril since the hurricane that devastated New Orleans.

During Katrina, emergency crews had no funds or authority to rescue dogs and cats. Many people refused rescue, opting to stay with their animals.

Roma was in New Orleans after the disaster. “What haunted me was you could walk down any street and see dogs and cats running around, dogs left inside abandoned buildings.”

After Katrina, Congress authorized funding for pets to be rescued in times of disaster. That was a catalyst for change, Roma said.

“As a result, in the emergency services world, pets are a part of our concern, as well as people,” Roma said. “People always come first. But in emergency situations, fire or accidents, we try to account for the safety of animals.”

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