Reading woman charged with neglecting 2 Chihuahuas

·4 min read

Sep. 22—A Reading woman has been charged with neglect of animals after authorities discovered two Chihuahuas confined to a wet basement with their ribs visible and suffering from severe dental disease.

Maricella Hernandez, 43, no permanent address, was committed to Berks County Prison in lieu of $5,000 bail to await a hearing following arraignment Wednesday night before District Judge David L. Yoch in Reading Central Court.

In addition to multiple animal neglect counts by the Animal Rescue League of Berks County, Hernandez faces unrelated charges from Reading police for possessing drug paraphernalia.

The bail total is for both sets of charges.

According to the criminal complaint from Stacy Sowers, a humane society police officer with the Animal Rescue League:

On April 1, the ARL's department of animal protection received a complaint about three Chihuahuas confined to a basement in the 400 block of Mulberry Street. The caller indicated the small-breed dogs were standing in their own urine and feces, and their ribs and backbones were visible.

Sowers and humane society police officer Savannah Baller went to the home April 5 to investigate. They were met by a woman who answered the door and stated the only dog in the residence was a pit bull that belonged to her boyfriend. When the woman opened the door, the female pit bull barked at the officers and appeared bright, alert and of ideal weight.

Before the officers left they heard small-breed dogs barking from the basement. When they asked to see the dogs in the basement, the woman said she was unsure if there were dogs in the basement. She said she would talk to the owners and closed the door.

A few minutes later, the woman returned. When she opened the door, officers were also met by Hernandez and three Chihuahuas.

One of the dogs appeared to be in good condition, but the other two were not. A female named Princess, had overgrown nails, ribs and spine visible and signs of dental loss.

A male named Bobby had signs of dental loss.

Sowers provided Hernandez with a mandatory correction order to get veterinary care, licensing and rabies vaccinations for the dogs.

On April 18, Sowers returned to the home with another humane officer. Hernandez wasn't home, but a woman who lives there took them to the backyard to show where the three Chihuahuas live. She removed two large rugs covering the cellar door and led the officers to the basement, which was covered in feces.

Hernandez arrived as the officers were about the leave. She said she was unable to get medical care because she doesn't speak English or have money.

Sowers informed her that she needed to communicate those issues with the ARL, adding that it has a veterinary hospital with payment plans and a bilingual staff.

She told Hernandez that they would come back in about a week to check if medical care was provided. The same day, an officer dropped off multiple large bags of dog food for Hernandez.

On May 2, Sowers arrived with another officer and spoke with Hernandez, who indicated she had a veterinary appointment for the Chihuahuas on May 5. When Sowers checked with the veterinarian, he was unable to find any records of Hernandez or the Mulberry Street address.

On June 14, the humane officer and Reading police went to the house with a search warrant.

Officers found Princess and Bobby in the basement and saw the floor was wet with what appeared to be a mixture of urine and water. No bowls of food or water were found in the basement.

Both dogs were taken from the home and examined by Dr. Jason Banning, an Animal Rescue League veterinarian at the time. His finding showed Princess had early chronic degenerative heart disease and severe dental disease. Bobby had severe end-stage dental disease, with just two teeth remaining in his mouth that were extremely loose and causing him pain.

Jose Joel Delgado-Rivera, chief communications officer with the ARL, said both dogs that were seized are receiving veterinary care at the shelter and are improving.

Delgado-Rivera said the ARL's animal protection department tries to work with pet owners to address neglect issues before filing criminal charges.