In November of 2015 a photo of yet another dog with its mouth taped shut went viral. Katherine Lemansky—who also went by the name Katie Brown on her Facebook page— found guilty of animal cruelty yesterday in a Wake County, NC courtroom.
The judge imposed a year of supervised probation, but suspended the sentence. Reactions to the judgment have been mixed, with some expressing outrage at the lack of punishment, some surprised the case was prosecuted at all, and others feeling that the decision is a sign that authorities are taking crimes against animals, animal cruelty more seriously.
Lemansky’s case is eerily reminiscent of that of Kimberly Ann Howell, who claimed to have taped her dog’s muzzle shut as “a joke.” Howell, too, was convicted of animal cruelty in NC this past December. Even more disturbing was the case of Caitlyn, the SC dog who suffered permanent scarring after her muzzle was clamped shut with electrical tape for at least 48 hours in May 2015. The case against Caitlyn’s former owner is still pending.
Cary, NC Animal Control Supervisor Shelly Smith investigated Lemansky’s case after a three-state investigation determined that the photo originated from that area. Lemansky told Smith that it was all just a joke and that the photo was only intended to be sent to her son. Instead it appeared on her public Facebook newsfeed on November 27, 2015 with the caption:
This is what happens when you don’t shut up!!!
In response to the instant backlash, Lemansky posted this follow-up later the same day:
Don’t panic everyone it was only for a minute but [the dog] hasn’t barked since… POINT MADE!!!
Despite Lemansky’s attempts to make light of the situation, the animal welfare community and the authorities weren’t laughing. Supervisor Smith visited the home shortly after the incident and found the dog to be in good spirits with no signs of injury, swelling, or hair loss. Lemansky stated that the duct tape was only on Brown’s (the dog’s) muzzle for 15-20 seconds. Smith ultimately determined that the situation did not warrant removing the dog from the home, but that the case against Lemansky should still move forward.
During yesterday’s court proceedings, the prosecutor argued that even though Brown did not suffer noticeable injuries from the duct tape, it did cause pain and therefore constitutes animal cruelty. The judge agreed, and although Lemansky will not serve time or be required to serve out the year of supervised probation, she will be responsible for the court fees.