Hartford woman arraigned for leaving dog to die in the cold - WFSB 3 Connecticut

Hartford woman arraigned for leaving dog to die in the cold

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Michelle Bennett appeared in Hartford Superior Court on Monday. (WFSB) Michelle Bennett appeared in Hartford Superior Court on Monday. (WFSB)
Michelle Bennett. (Hartford police). Michelle Bennett. (Hartford police).

A woman accused of leaving a dog to die in frigid temperatures appeared in court on Monday.

According to police, 50-year-old Michelle Bennett of Hartford faces an animal cruelty charge, though she's not the dog's owner.

Last week, police said they tried to serve an arrest warrant several times at Bennett's Adams Street address; however, they found her on Cabot Street.

Police found out about it after a concerned neighbor reached out to them.

According to animal law advocates, Bennett left the dog, named BJ, to live outside for about a month without food or water. It was skinny and in its own feces.

The dog eventually froze to death, police said.

It was found on New Year's Day.

In an arrest warrant, police said they told Bennett that there was a dead dog in the backyard. She replied "Yeah I know."

The documents said Bennett told police that the dog used to belong to her stepbrother.

"[He] had been arrested and incarcerated a couple of months ago and that the dog was now living at her residence," the warrant stated.

A friend, who was walking with Bennett, told Channel 3 that they didn't know to whom the dog belongs.

"She said when the police asked her 'I didn't have anything to do with that,'" said Earnest James, a friend from Hartford. "The police turned it around and that she was taking care, she never walked that dog."

She also told police, according to the warrant, that even though the dog lived at her residence, it wasn't her responsibility.

"Someone was supposed to come feed the dog for her every day," the warrant said.

"Do you know who that person is? I have no clue," James said. "All I know is that on her behalf, she isn't responsible." 

Bennett was arrested on Thursday. She faced a judge in Hartford on Monday morning and was appointed a public defender.

During the appearance on Monday, Bennett learned that she cannot be in possessions of any animals or pets, though her attorney said she does not own any. She also cannot care for, directly or indirectly, any animals or pets. If she violates any of these conditions, her bond will be increased. 

She would not provide a comment.

Members of the group animal advocate group Desmond's Army rallied around BJ. They were at the courthouse on Monday.

They said this was a case that shouldn't have happened.

"It was avoidable and I was furious because, the law is very specific: You care for a dog, it's your dog," said Donna Ploss, Desmond's Army.

"You cannot leave animals outside and people are responsible to make sure that animals are feed and if there is a problem to contact the proper authorities," said Deanna Damen, Desmond's Army.

As of Monday's appearance, the animal cruelty charge was only a misdemeanor. After the case is reviewed in court, a judge said it could be upgraded to a felony.

"This case took a piece of my heart," said Mariette Slater, Desmond's Army. "They all do but this kept me up at night and we need justice."

BJ will likely be represented by a lawyer who applied to be its animal advocate. Desmond's Law is a new law in Connecticut where students or pro-bono lawyers can represent the animal in animal cruelty cases.

Bennett's next court appearance is on Feb. 5. 

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