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Vigil held for puppy who died a ‘horrific, very painful death’ after being left in a metal cage on a hot day

It was 94 degrees in Groves on the day the puppy was found. There was no food or water in the kennel it was locked in.

GROVES, Texas — Southeast Texans gave a 5-month-old puppy who died of heatstroke after being left in a metal cage on a hot day a proper send off.

A candlelight vigil was held Saturday in honor of the puppy who was affectionately nicknamed Justice.

Justice was found on Wednesday, July 13, 2022 in the 3100 block of Taft Avenue in Groves. The video of Justice’s death, caught by a 10-year-old boy, angered many members of the Southeast Texas community.

The video showed the puppy’s last moments before it died of heat stroke.

“This little boy is a hero,” Rhonda Girard, vigil organizer and animal activist, said. “He took the video, and they were able to use it for their investigation."

Officials found Justice in a wire kennel on the side of a home. The kennel was found in direct sunlight with no shade. A small bowl with no food or water was found inside the kennel.

“I was sick to my stomach,” Girard said. “It broke my heart because I knew that little baby was suffering a horrific very, very painful death for hours while it was awake, and nobody came to save him. Nobody rescued him, and he died all alone.”

Related: 'Inhumane act of cruelty' | No charges filed yet following death of puppy locked in metal cage, investigation continues

It was 94 degrees in Groves on the day the puppy was found. A heat advisory was in effect, showing a heat index between 108 and 112 degrees at the time of the call.

The video helped lead to the arrest of Michelle Braford, who was later indicted on felony animal cruelty. Police believe she is responsible for leaving Justice to die in the heat. 

Girard feels Justices’ final moments were cruel. She hopes justice is truly served for Justice and wants Bradford to face the maximum sentence allowed by law, so that others know crimes such as these will not go unpunished.

“So that everyone who would even think of doing harm to another animal can see that you’re not going to get away with this anymore,” Girard said. “Everybody is watching. Were going to do something about it and people are taking this seriously.

Related: Woman indicted in connection with July heat stroke death of puppy left in sun with no water

Girard hopes Saturday's event showed Justice he was loved and brought awareness to animal abuse and neglect.

“It can serve to make people know that they cannot hurt an animal and it go unpunished,” Girard said.

Girard feels animal abuse is too common and happens too often. She wants people know that getting an animal is a lifetime commitment of love and care.

“Animals are living, feeling beings,” Girard said. “It’s our job to take care of them. We domesticated them. They can’t fend for themselves anymore."

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