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Miami student faces animal abuse charges

A Miami University student is facing animal cruelty charges after an Oxford Police Department (OPD) officer said she found the student’s dog starving and sitting in his own urine. 

Sophomore Zichang Li is being charged with cruelty to animals, which is a second degree misdemeanor. If convicted, she faces 90 days in jail and a $750 fine. 

Property management at Oxford Commons, where Li resides, called OPD on Sept. 13 for an animal welfare check, expressing concerns about Li’s dog, Dollar. OPD Officer Angela Schatzle went to the apartment and saw a medium-to-large rottweiler that looked like it had been left in a black wire cage for a long time. 

“I could see ribs, hip bones and spine protruding from the fur,” Schatzle said during Li’s court hearing on Oct. 24. 

Li said she left Dollar with a friend when she went home over summer break, and the dog had been healthy when she left.

Li said she hadn’t taken the dog to a veterinarian since returning to Oxford this fall. When Schatzle made the welfare check in September, she gave Li the names and addresses of two vets in Oxford and told her to make an appointment. 

On Sept. 14, Li took Dollar to the Animal Care Clinic. The vet gave Li appropriate dog food and told her to check back in a month. At that time, Dollar weighed 55.2 pounds. 

Schatzle said she checked in with Li multiple times over the next month. At one point, Li told her she wasn’t the right person to care for Dollar because she was too busy.

On Oct. 17, Schatzle went to Li’s apartment. Li wasn’t home, but a man answered the door. Schatzle could see the Dollar’s crate through the door and asked the man to give the dog food and water. He complied, and Schatzle said the dog drank about 40 ounces of water. 

She returned the next morning to find the dog in the same crate with no food or water. In the crate was a moist pile of feces, six to eight inches in diameter, Schatzle said. 

She added that there was a film of wet urine on the floor under the crate, and she could see the dog’s ribs. 

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Schatzle said Dollar wouldn’t have been able to lie down without touching the excrement and that Li didn’t seem concerned about removing the dog or cleaning the cage. 

Li said she hadn’t taken the dog to the check-in that the vet required, and Schatzle was concerned Dollar was sick. She would have expected it to gain weight if Li had adhered to the feeding regiment the vet gave her. 

OPD removed Dollar and took him to the vet on Oct. 18. At that time, the dog weighed 45.2 pounds, 10 less than at the original appointment. Schatzle said the vet gives dogs a body condition score from one to five, with one being extremely thin and five being obese. At the initial visit, the vet gave Dollar a rating of two, while at the second check in, Dollar was down to  a one. 

The vet conducted tests and ruled out any medical conditions. Dollar remained in the vet’s custody until the court hearing. 

Judge Jeffrey Bowling ruled there was probable cause to remove Dollar from Li’s custody. Li agreed to give up custody, and Dollar was taken to the Animal Friends Humane Society. He was later adopted and renamed Rocky, according to the Humane Society’s Facebook

Li’s next hearing is scheduled for 10 a.m. on Oct. 31 at the Oxford Courthouse. 

This article was updated to include information about the dog's current status.