Warning: Some viewers might find the images in this story disturbing.
PHOENIX – A 2-year-old dog is fighting for her life and the person who was supposed to be caring for her is facing a felony charge of animal cruelty.
Police discovered the dog, a female pit bull named Ryder, on Saturday while responding to a domestic-violence call at an apartment complex on 19th Avenue south of Peoria Avenue.
“During the initial investigation officers noticed a severely emaciated … dog attached to the door knob of one of the bedrooms with a very large, linked chain as a collar and leash combination,” Phoenix police Officer James Holmes said in a news release. “The chain had been applied so tightly only the dog's hind feet could touch the floor.”
Officers said Ryder did not have any food or water and appeared to be severely malnourished and extremely weak.
When the officers asked Corina Martinez, believed to be the dog’s primary caregiver, why the dog was hanging from the door, she reportedly told them that Ryder was vicious. She also told officers that she was not Ryder’s owner and was only watching her. She said the owner was a transient man who would show up and take the dog for a few days every so often.
After dealing with the domestic-violence situation that brought them to the apartment, officers removed Ryder from the home and took her to an emergency animal clinic. Vets there said it was possible that Ryder had suffered organ damage due to the neglect she suffered at the hand of her caregiver.
Ryder was transferred to the Arizona Humane Society, where vets are doing everything they can to save her. While she’s still in critical condition, she is eating on her own several times a day and is making slow progress.
When police interviewed Martinez, 28, on Monday, she told them she did not know how Ryder had been left hanging from the doorknob, nor did she know how long the dog had been chained or when she had last eaten.
According to court paperwork, Martinez (right) told officers she had thought about calling the Arizona Humane Society about Ryder, "but could not provide a reason for not following through."
"When I asked if she understood if her treatment of this dog was cruel, she replied she did," the arresting officer wrote in his probable cause statement.
Determining that Martinez was indeed Ryder’s primary caregiver and that she knew the dog was in distress and took no action, detectives arrested her and booked her on one count of animal cruelty, which is a class 6 felony in Arizona.
Detectives believe Martinez’s live-in boyfriend could face a similar charge.
While Ryder has made progress since arriving at the Arizona Humane Society and is doing "as well as can be expected," her prognosis is not clear.
"She's been severely neglected and starved," AHS spokeswoman Ashleigh Goebel said. "You can see every bone in her body."
AHS vets say on a weight scale of one to nine, with nine being obese, Ryder is about a two.
"She's hanging in there," Goebel said, explaining that it will be quite some time before they know if Ryder is going to make it. Vets are still waiting on several test results to determine how badly Ryder's body might be damaged.
If Ryder does recover, a process that will take several weeks, Goebel said AHS will start looking for a good home for her. Second chances is what the organization is about.
"We see animals like this come in all too often," Goebel said. "It's why we do what we do. It's why we're here."
Under Arizona law, there are several circumstances that constitute animal cruelty, including both subjecting an animal to "cruel neglect or abandonment" and failing "to providing medical attention necessary to prevent protracted suffering to any animal under the person's custody or control."
A class 6 felony is considered the least severe. Depending on the circumstances, a conviction for a first offense carries a sentence of four months to two years in prison. While a first-time offender could be eligible for probation, it's not an option for anyone with priors.
If you suspect animal cruelty or abuse in Phoenix or Scottsdale, report it to the Arizona Humane Society by calling 602-997-7585 Ext. 2073 (0 after hours) or fill out a report online. (Click here for numbers to call in other cities.)