A group of animal lovers impersonated animal control officers to take a Rottweiler, they said was being abused, from a Philadelphia home this week, the dog's owner claims. But officials say the canine was being properly cared for and blame the entire episode on a series of photos posted to Facebook.
Members of several animal rescue groups showed up at Brenda Johnson's Northeast Philadelphia home Tuesday claiming her dog, 8-year-old King, was being removed from her care because he was being subjected to poor living conditions, the woman said.
Johnson said the group members identified themselves as humane officers from the Pennsylvania SPCA. She claims the group threatened her with animal cruelty charges and said a series of photos showing King appearing to hang from weather stripping attached to her garage prompted them to rescue the dog.
Johnson said King regularly sleeps in the garage, which is climate controlled, and was jumping in the photo in question.
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When Johnson called the PSPCA to protest King's removal, they said their officers hadn't taken the dog. An investigation led PSPCA officers to the animal group who had brought the dog to upstate New York.
"It's not right, whatever they did to me, they going to be doing it to other people, and they really took advantage of us," Johnson said.
George Bengal, PSPCA Director of Humane Enforcement, said his officers had checked on the dog in the summer after the same photos showed up on Facebook at that time. He said the animal was in good health and was being treated well.
Bengal said there are times photos and videos posted to social networks drive animal rescues, but in this case, the images don't tell a true story.
The PSPCA retrieved the dog on Friday and returned him to Johnson.
"You can look at my animal, he doesn't look like he's abused, he's healthy, he's been registered to the state," she said.
NBC10 spoke to several of the groups who believe their members were involved in the incident. Their names are being withheld because they have not been charged with a crime and haven't been positively linked to the confiscation.
Rescue group leaders said they didn't threaten Johnson, claim to be from the PSPCA and said the woman willingly handed over King.
The PSPCA and police aren't planning on filing charges.
Johnson, however, is preparing to file a complaint with the state and a lawsuit in civil court.