NJ woman pleads not guilty to pit bull abuse

Patrick the miracle dog (Garden State Veterinary Specialists)

March 31, 2011 12:29:12 PM PDT
A New Jersey woman accused of starving a dog that was found at the bottom of a trash chute pleaded not guilty Thursday to animal abuse charges, as letters and donations poured in from the around the world in support of the 1-year-old pit bull nicknamed Patrick.

Kisha Curtis appeared by video feed from the Essex County jail wearing an orange prison jumpsuit. Attorney Kelly Lerner, who represented Curtis for the arraignment, entered the plea on her behalf.

Meanwhile, Essex County's courthouse has received more than 200 letters and faxes from around the world expressing concern for the dog and urging swift and harsh punishment for Curtis.

"She should not be treated with kid gloves," a writer from Colorado says. "Throw the book at her," another writes. One letter came from New Zealand.

Curtis is charged with two fourth-degree offenses for "tormenting and torturing" an animal by failing to provide food and water, the prosecutor's office said. Those carry a maximum jail sentence of 18 months and a fine of up to $10,000, but the prosecutor's office still has to determine whether those charges will be presented to a grand jury.

She also faces two abandonment charges that are disorderly persons offenses and are punishable by up to six months in jail with a $1,000 fine. Curtis, whose only previous brush with law is a 2003 shoplifting charge in Passaic County, could receive probation or community service, prosecutors said.

Municipal Court Judge Amilkar Velez-Lopez continued Curtis' bail at $10,000 bond or $1,000 cash. She faces another court hearing in early May.

Authorities say Curtis tied the dog to a railing in her Newark apartment building and left the state for more than a week. A janitor later found the emaciated dog in a trash bin.

Curtis' mother was in court Thursday and said her daughter was in Albany, N.Y., when the dog was believed to have been abused.

"Somebody gave her that dog but she couldn't take care of it, so she tied it up outside hoping somebody else could take it," Tammie Curtis said. "Somebody took that dog and did whatever they did to it."

Patrick, named because he was found the day before St. Patrick's Day, is being treated at Garden State Veterinary Specialists in Tinton Falls. On its website, the center wrote that is has received so many donations that it has discontinued accepting them and is urging people to donate to local animal shelters.

Patrick's progress also is being chronicled on a Facebook page. The page is crammed with messages from people interested in adopting him.