April 19, 2014

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Dogs taken from Ariel Castro headed to foster care so kidnapped women can decide if they’d like to adopt them

CLEVELAND — Three dogs seized from a man charged with holding three women captive and raping them over a decade were ready Tuesday for foster care placement until the women decide if they want to adopt them.

John Baird, chief Cleveland animal control officer, said the dogs — a Chihuahua and two terrier-poodle mixes — were ready to be picked up by a rescue group that agreed to care for them.

The Chihuahua was seized from the car of Ariel Castro, 52, when he was arrested at a fast-foot restaurant shortly after the women escaped his Cleveland home on May 6. The other two dogs were taken that night by an animal control officer at Castro’s home, which has since been boarded up and fenced off as a crime scene amid arson threats.

The mixed-breed dogs had matted hair but all three otherwise appeared to be in good health and adequately fed, Baird said.

Authorities said the women, all of whom required hospital care after their escape, had never seen a doctor during their captivity. One said she had suffered at least five miscarriages as Castro starved her for weeks and repeatedly punched her in the belly.

The dogs will remain in foster care until Amanda Berry, Gina DeJesus and Michelle Knight decide if they want to take the pets into their homes, Baird said. He said the women will get all the time they need to decide.

They may have bonded one on one with the dogs in captivity and, as such, the pets would be important as they acclimate to freedom, Baird said.

“It kind of makes sense, maybe that there were three dogs, three women,” he said over the sound of yelping dogs in the city kennel located in an industrial neighborhood. “They may have bonded with these dogs and we would like for them to have a shot at them if they want them, just because it was something they could attach themselves to.”

Castro, fired last fall as a Cleveland school bus driver after repeated disciplinary issues, will plead not guilty, according to a defense attorney. He has been locked up on $8 million bond on three rape charges and four counts of kidnapping, including holding Berry’s 6-year-old daughter, who was fathered by Castro.

None of the women has spoken publicly and each has asked for privacy.