Owner comes forward to claim dog found with 'Free,' 'I Need a Home' written on it

Dylan Stableford, Yahoo News

The owner of an abandoned dog that was found with the words "Free" and "I Need a Home" written on it in permanent marker last week has come forward to claim her pet.

According to police in Benicia, California, a woman provided photos, veterinarian records and witness testimony to prove that she was the dog's owner, NBC reports. Her name was not released.

The woman, from Yolo County, told authorities the dog escaped from her yard and she has no idea how the hound made it to Benicia, roughly 60 miles south.

The dog was found by Shannon Bettencourt, a local bartender, on July 3. It was tied to a tree.

"She was scared, shaking and kind of whimpering," Bettencourt said. "I was heartbroken. It was really sad. Nobody wants to see an animal like that ever."

She told KTVU she thought about calling police but was afraid they would call animal control.

Bettencourt took the dog home and cared for it while she tried to locate the owner.

"The first night I let her sleep in the bed with me because I knew she needed something, and she just slept on my stomach the whole night," Bettencourt said.

Bettencourt had planned to adopt the dog if the owner couldn't be located. (She even gave the dog a nickname — Libby, short for Liberty, in the spirit of the Fourth of July.)

"She's super well-trained, and it just doesn't make sense why somebody would dump her," Bettencourt said. "She was obviously well taken care of. You could have easily found a home for a dog like this if you really gave it half an effort."

Police initially said the owner could face animal cruelty charges, but they now believe she had nothing to do with the dog's abandonment.

"We don't believe the owner had any involvement in abandoning the dog in our city," Benicia Police Lt. Michael Greene told Yahoo News.

The Yolo County Sheriff's Office Animal Control Unit is working with the owner to determine how the dog went missing, Greene said.