A dog owner faces animal cruelty charges after a passerby spotted his pet left in a parked car appearing to have its mouth taped shut.
Thomas D. Ethridge, 23, recently moved to the southwestern Colorado town of Durango and had been living out of his car while he searched for employment, according to local press.
He reportedly left the Belgian malinois, named Appa, in the vehicle while he showered at a local community sports centre on July 18.
A concerned passerby noticed the dog sitting in the back of the car about 6pm, and called 911, The Durango Herald reported.
Three days later, Animal Protection issued Ethridge a cruelty to animals notice.
Ethridge said he used insulation tape to keep Appa’s mouth shut because the dog had been eating items from the vehicle, like a leash, earlier that day, which caused him to be sick.
His owner said he didn’t want Appa to continue to do that while he was away, and was also worried he might try to bite someone through the vehicle’s open window.
“I didn’t do this maliciously or to harm him,” Ethridge said.
“I don’t think what I did was the extreme animal abuse of the century, but I understand it is against the law. I totally accept what I did and the punishment for it.”
Under Colorado law, Ethridge faces six to 18 months in prison, or a $500-$5,000 fine with potential for both.
Local attorney Juliet Piccone said the pet could have easily over-heated, given the temperature was more than 31 degrees.
“He has the dog with its muzzle duct-taped shut, so the dog can’t pant. That car can become deadly within 10 to 15 minutes.”
Ethridge is due to appear in court on August 23.