Bettina Cuce Rodriguez, a dog lover who volunteers in animal rescue, heard that a pit bill mix had been chained outside a mobile home in a rural community near Virginia Beach in bad weather and without food or water. The dog was said to be near death, and the county animal control was not responding to reports of the situation. So Rodriguez and two others took the dog—and got charged with dog larceny, a felony, after the dog was reported stolen on Jan. 11, 2015. Rodriguez's trial began Wednesday, the Virginian-Pilot reports, and she faces up to 10 years in prison if found guilty. But the trial was continued for a month after odd circumstances Thursday: The alleged owner of the dog showed up at the courthouse but left before it was his turn to testify, WAVY reports.
Rodriguez and her cohorts were turned in by a passerby who saw three people take the chained dog, then flee when he confronted them. Animal lovers in Virginia Beach say this is just one of many incidents in which a dog is left in poor conditions. "Have we reached the point where people from outside the area feel the need to come and steal a dog because they think things are that bad and that nothing is being done?" says one man who formed a volunteer organization to help struggling pet owners after this incident. "There’s a right way and a wrong way to rescue dogs," he adds. What Rodriguez allegedly did "was the wrong way." The other two defendants, Charlene Boyajian and Gordon Shell, are scheduled to be tried in March and May, respectively. As for the dog, it's not clear what happened to it. (Read more animal welfare stories.)