WILLOUGHBY, Ohio -- Animal rights activists held a rally in front of Willoughby Municipal Court Thursday ahead of a hearing involving a couple accused of abandoning their sick dog.
About a dozen activists with the group Nitro's Army held signs and said they were there to seek justice for the dog now called Lucy.
Willoughby police officers responding to a report of a dog running in the woods near Erie Road on December 4 found the pit bull mix with only a cage and pillow. The dog, who had serious health issues including a tumor, did not have food or water, police said.
"There are agencies out there that are willing and desiring to help people with their pets, but to abandon an animal in freezing temperatures that has severe medical needs, that's unconscionable," said activist Irene Faila.
Police identified the dog's owners as Alvaro Torres, 39, and Heather Pica Torres, 36, of Willoughby. They were charged with cruelty to a companion animal, a felony under Goddard's Law, and cited for failing to have a dog license, a misdemeanor.
Thursday, as the group of activists filled the court room, Pica Torrres waived a preliminary hearing, and her case will be bound over to a Lake County grand jury. A preliminary hearing for Torres was continued so he can obtain an attorney.
"What they did was wrong," said activist Jane Abbott. "They had other options."
The dog -- which the owners called Blanca -- underwent surgery and was improving under the care of a veterinarian. The demonstrators said they will continue to attend hearings to seek justice for Lucy.
"We want to be a voice for the voiceless," Faila said. "As long as abuse is going on we're going to come out and we're going to make sure that the animals are going to be protected."