WILMINGTON, New Hanover County — A North Carolina woman running a dog walking and animal care business is facing felony animal cruelty charges after two dogs died in her care.
The New Hanover County Sheriff Ed McMahon said the home was found in squalor and the animals seized included rabbits, turtles and other dogs.
“What we found was horrendous, extreme temperatures, just horrendous,” McMahon told Wilmington ABC affiliate WWAY.
According to documents provided by the NHSO, the animals were housed in a resident that exceeded 79 degrees with no fans.
On April 18th, officials said a pet owner dropped her two German shepherds, Nala and Jager, off at a private pet sitter she found on the popular pet sitting and walking app ‘Rover’.
Six days later, the owner received a call from the pet sitter, Pamela Rodriguez, telling her that Nala was found dead in a crate.
Rodriguez then told the owner she’d be taking the other dog, Jager, to the emergency clinic because he wasn’t eating and seemed weak, according to NHSO.
At the clinic, a veterinary technician attempted to save Jager, however, the dog was later pronounced dead.
McMahon said deputies obtained a warrant to search Rodriguez’s home on May 20, and what they found was alarming.
“Cages on top of each other with animals in them, none of them being fed or [had] water,” said McMahon. “We ended up taking 16 different animals out, into our custody.”
A chihuahua was discovered in a cat crate so small, it couldn’t stand; McMahon said that dog was returned to its owner.
WWAY reached out to the ‘Rover’ platform, and they responded in a statement.
“As pet parents ourselves, we are appalled by this incident and our hearts go out to everyone who loved Nala and Jäger. Our 24/7 Trust and Safety team immediately launched an investigation when we were alerted to these concerns. We removed the sitter from the Rover platform, and we remain ready and willing to work with law enforcement should they reach out. We’re committed to the trust and safety of our community, and an incident like this is heartbreaking and very rare: Nearly 24,000 stays have been booked through Rover in the Wilmington area, with 98% of reviewed stays receiving 5 stars.”
Rodriguez was arrested and is charged with two counts of felony animal cruelty, and the sheriff’s office said more charges are expected.
“Pets are our family, always check references, ask around before you leave them in someone else’s care,” said McMahon. “We will not tolerate this type of behavior towards animals.”