Caitlyn, the dog whose muzzle was cruelly taped shut for days, is out of reconstructive surgery and is doing well, doctors say.
“Her tongue was in way better condition that we anticipated. It was initially assessed that we would lose about a third of her tongue, and we sort of revised that estimate to a fourth, but I don’t think she lost an eighth of it,” Henri Bianucci, a doctor with Veterinary Specialty Care in South Carolina, told WCIV shortly after the surgery.
The reconstructive procedure took longer than expected, but it was a success.
While her recovery from the surgery might take weeks, Caitlyn is expected to be able to eat and drink food normally.
The 15-month-old chocolate Staffordshire bull terrier mix was found in Charleston County, S.C., last week with a thin strip of electrical tape wrapped tightly around her muzzle. The vise was so tight for so long — up to 48 hours — that it trapped her tongue between her teeth, cutting off the blood flow.
“I have a dog that’s here at my house that I found and the dog’s mouth is taped shut with electrical tape, tongue hanging out its mouth, bleeding, and his tongue is completely black,” a 911 caller said, according to ABC affiliate WCIV. “I just don’t know what to do.”
The Charleston Animal Society’s Facebook post documenting Caitlyn’s plight with a shocking photo spread far and wide. Sympathizers used the hashtag #Justice4Caitlyn to help spread the word in an effort to find the person responsible for her mistreatment, which the Animal Society’s director of anti-cruelty called the most “malicious” case of animal abuse he has ever seen.
“To leave this dog in pain, unable to eat or drink, and to now leave her in the position where her life is at stake because she may lose her tongue is heartbreaking,” Aldwin Roman said.
On Monday, North Charleston police arrested 41-year-old William Leonard Dodson on a felony charge of animal torture.
His bail was set Tuesday at $50,000, according to Charleston County Circuit Court records. “I don’t think $50,000 really matched the pain and suffering Caitlyn has had to go through,” the Animal Society’s Roman said after the hearing, according to the Post and Courier. “She is healing, but the damage has been done.”
The newspaper reported that Charleston County Magistrate Priscilla Baldwin said another dog would be removed from Dodson’s house. Dodson “can not have [possession] of any animals,” court records indicate.
He remained in custody at the Charleston County Detention Center early Wednesday morning, according to a jail official.
The dog’s previous owner, who wouldn’t allow his name or face to be shown, previously told WCIV that the puppy was so “active” that she damaged his home and he feared that he might be evicted. So, he said, he sold Caitlyn to a stranger for $10 on Memorial Day.
“Don’t let me find you, that’s all I can say,” the man said, delivering a message to the person responsible for Caitlyn’s mistreatment. “Because that’s part of my family that you just did some foul things to.”
But the station reported Tuesday that an affidavit released during Dodson’s bond hearing “paints a slightly different picture of what happened to Caitlyn, who had previously been named Diamond.”
According to the affidavit, Dodson bought Caitlyn on May 25 for $20, but returned the following night to the previous owner to say he had taped the dog’s mouth shut because she would not stop barking.
According to the previous owner, Dodson was laughing when he said he had taped up the dog.
The affidavit, the ABC affiliate reported, shows that the dog’s former owners “had known Dodson for a least a year and said he is ‘like a brother.'”
The Post and Courier reported that Dodson has an extensive criminal record — including recent drug and gun charges — and was on probation for a weapons conviction at the time of his arrest.
For the charge of ill-treatment of animals, Dodson faces from 180 days to five years in prison and a fine of $5,000. The felony penalties are applied by state statute to a person convicted of acts such as torturing or cruelly killing an animal. He mutilated the dog and inflicted “excessive and unnecessary pain and suffering,” according to the arrest affidavit.
Meanwhile, Caitlyn’s road to recovery continues. She was transferred to new facility — Veterinary Specialty Care in Mount Pleasant, S.C. —where she is being treated for extensive injury to her muzzle and tongue.
She has undergone lip surgery and is being treated with cold laser therapy to promote the healing of her tongue, which doctors still hope will heal on its own, the Charleston Animal Society said.
She is now eating and drinking on her own.
“This was intentional, someone was trying to hurt her,” Kelli Kline, a doctor treating Caitlyn at Veterinary Specialty Care, told WCIV. “They did it — they did what they went out to do. I am very, very surprised that she’s healing at this rate.”
On Wednesday, the Animal Society noted that Caitlyn was headed back to the operating table for surgery on her torn lips.
“Today we put this sweet innocent face in the capable hands of Dr. Henri Bianucci!” the Society announced on Facebook. “No longer will she show the horrible signs of abuse that have disfigured her for life! She will receive plastic surgery because she needs it…to keep her food in her mouth and to heal!”
This post has been updated.