Dead dog’s owner: Man charged with animal cruelty is innocent

VIRGINIA BEACH, Va. (WAVY) — Virginia Beach Animal Control said 27-year-old Michael Ortega was arrested and charged with felony animal cruelty after a Maltese puppy died. But the dog’s owner has come to his defense.

Animal control spokeswoman Meghan Conti said the dog’s owner brought the dead dog to the Virginia Beach Animal Care and Adoption Center around 11:30 a.m. Saturday. An animal control officer spoke to the owner and opened up a possible animal cruelty case. Conti said a necropsy was done and the dog was found to have severe blunt force trauma.

Photos: Cruelty charges disputed by dog’s owner

Tiara Easter told WAVY News’ Liz Palka she is the dog’s owner. She claims the dog, named Piper, died accidentally and the charges against Ortega are not correct.

“It was just a freak accident to where she bit him, he loosened his grip, and she fell,” Easter said.puppy

Easter said she’s explained this to the investigating animal control officer.

“I’m the owner of the dog,” Easter said. “No one called animal control to say that the dog was being abused. There’s not an abusive history.”

Easter said Ortega was temporarily watching Piper while she moved. He called Easter on Saturday morning and told her to come to his house.

“He’s been in tears the entire time,” Easter said. “He felt horrible. He didn’t know how it could have happened. It was a freak accident. He’s traumatized.”

Easter said she took Piper’s body to an emergency animal hospital in Virginia Beach. When she couldn’t afford to cremate the dog, she took the body to the Animal Care and Adoption Center to see if they could take it.

“I couldn’t get in contact with my father to bury my dog like I would have liked to in the backyard,” she said. “So I didn’t know how else to dispose of it. So, I went to [the Animal Care and Adoption Center, originally for help.”

Easter said she knows Piper’s history, including medical records, which she plans on bringing up in court, if she needs to. She’s worried about the charge Ortega faces and what it could mean for his future.

“If he hurt my dog, trust me, I’d want justice just like they do and so would my family,” Easter said. “But, he’s never hurt her.”

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