Kimberly Ann Howell is a 25-year-old mother from Salisbury, North Carolina. On Sept. 28, 2015, she uploaded on Facebook photos of her dog 'Leah' with its mouth bound tightly with duct tape. One of the captions read 'ha ha'. Someone reported the incident to the Rowan County Sheriff's Office. Howell now faces an animal cruelty charge.
The photos of the tape-bound dog enraged the social media community. Howell explained that she immediately removed the tape and defended by saying the dog was trying to bite her daughter. She wanted to teach the dog a lesson.
"Wow ok maybe I should of said I was joking when posting that," Howell wrote on Facebook and added that when she got Leah, the dog had poor physique. "But honestly though people would know better anyone who spend (sic) a week at my house would see how spoiled and loved my dog is."
Howell said she is neither an animal abuser nor a child abuser. The investigators confirmed that Leah bears no signs of neglect or abuse. The dog is unharmed and of good health. Howell explained that the uploaded photos were meant as a joke. The intention backfired and a throng of social media users posted harassing comments on her wall. She immediately took down the photos. She maintained that she removed the duct tape as soon as the photos were taken, authorities said.
Investigator Ryan Barkley said that Leah could remain in Howell's care since Animal Control stated there were no injuries of signs of mistreatment on the dog's body. However, the agency stressed the serious health risk of bounding a dog's mouth with duct tape.
"Obviously something that's really tight, you could cut off the blood supply and end up killing the tissues. The animal can aspirate from regurgitating," said Jamie Stivers from Rowan County Animal Control.
Howell was arrested and charged with animal cruelty. She was released on a $3,000 bond and a court appearance set on Nov. 4, 2015.
The incident happened just months after a highly publicized animal cruelty case early this year. In May 2015, a 15-month-old Chocolate Staffie mix named 'Caitlyn' was found with her mouth tightly bound with electrical tape. Caitlyn was a stray dog in the Chicora Cherokee neighborhood in North California. The Charleston Animal Society took Caitlyn under their care and after a surgery, the dog has recovered. Forty-one-year old William Leonard Dodson was charged with ill treatments of animals.