NEW JERSEY — Authorities are investigating "a potential animal cruelty case" in New Jersey where a puppy was found cowering in its cage on a beach as the tide began to come in.
The Monmouth County Prosecutor's Office said a good Samaritan found the young pit bull trapped and surrounded by water on a beach in Highlands, New Jersey, on Monday morning.
“The tide was coming in and the water had reached the cage,” the Monmouth County Prosecutor's Office said in a statement Monday. “When animal control arrived on the scene the cage was almost covered by the rising tide. If not for the heroic rescue act of the good Samaritan, the dog could have potentially drowned.”
The pup, a male around the age of 1, was immediately taken to the Highlands Police Department, which alerted the county’s Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals center (SPCA) and eventually the prosecutor’s office.
Jennifer Vaz, the good Samaritan who rescued the dog, was walking her own dog when she spotted the small black wire cage with the whimpering dog inside.
"When I looked down, I saw these eyes looking back at me -- these cute little puppy eyes all shivered up and scared," Vaz told New York ABC station WABC on Tuesday. "I couldn't believe that this happened in our town and somebody could be this malicious and do that to that dog."
Vaz gave him the name "River" before she turned him in. She told WABC she will foster the dog until it is adopted.
"The cage was on a small portion of sand between the bulkhead and the water," prosecutor’s office said. "The good Samaritan climbed over the wall and rescued the dog."
The office believes the dog may have been left there between 4 a.m. and 6 a.m. and says he is now in good health.
“Although River is a bit shaken up, he is in good physical shape and seems to have been well cared for,” the SPCA said. “We are working with the Monmouth County Prosecutor’s Office to help bring justice to River.”
The center posted images on its Facebook page this week, showing him snuggled up with a uniformed police officer while sporting his new tags and collar.
It urged anyone with information about the dog or its owner to contact the Monmouth County Cruelty Hotline or the Highlands Police Department.