Cleveland Women Can Decide If They Want Alleged Captor's Dogs

PHOTO: One of three dogs taken from the home of Ariel Castro peers out from its cage at the city kennel in Cleveland, May 21, 2013.
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Three dogs rescued from alleged Cleveland kidnapper Ariel Castro are in foster care until the three women police say he held captive decide whether any one of them wants to keep the dogs.

The Chihuahua and two terrier-poodle mixes were found at the Ohio house where Castro allegedly kept Amanda Berry, 27, Gina DeJesus, 23, and Michelle Knight, 32, in captivity for more than a decade.

Knight's attorney, Kathryn Joseph, said she appreciates officials' giving the women time and the opportunity to decide whether they want the dogs.

"I think it's really nice that they're hanging on to them because I know they were meaningful, at least to my client," Joseph said today. "I don't know if she's interested, so it's something I have to talk to her about."

Knight is "doing very well" and has not had or needed facial reconstruction surgery, contrary to some reports, Joseph said.

"They're all doing pretty well, amazingly well. You'd be shocked," she said. "They're happy. They're optimistic. They're excited about their futures."

Another member of the legal team whose firm is working primarily with Berry and DeJesus declined to comment.

John Baird, chief animal control officer for Cleveland, said the dogs are at a foster home, pending a decision by the women.

"We're going to try to give them as much time as they need," Baird said.

He said all three dogs have since been sterilized and micro-chipped. Two of them had matted hair and have been groomed. He said they "seem to be great" and did not appear to have been abused or mistreated.

"We think that maybe one of these women, or all of the women, may have bonded with one or more of these dogs and we'd like to make sure they get a chance to get one of them, or whatever dog they bonded with, to maybe make things a little bit easier on them," Baird said.

Chuck Williams, a Drexel University youth counselor in Philadelphia with an expertise in foster care and trauma, said research shows that having a pet can help with recovery from both physical and psychological trauma but pointed out that the women's situation is also a key factor.

"Everything associated with that horrific period in their lives is going to be a double-edged sword," Williams said. "It depends on what the relationship [with the dogs] was.

"My guess is that out of all of it, that would be the one silver lining for them unless there was some kind of trauma associated with those pets," he added.

He pointed to research showing that pets can decrease stress and anxiety, give people hope and improve mood.

Williams said that traumatic situations can turn typically "neutral" experiences -- like pets, friends, TV shows, smells, times of day -- into triggers or reminders of the horrible situation.

"Every experience they've had in that house has the potential to remind them of how bad that was, but it's going to be different for all of them," he said.

All three women have kept a low profile since Berry escaped and the other two women were rescued May 6.

Their attorneys released a letter earlier this week on behalf of their clients, thanking the public for their encouragement, as well as for respecting their requests for privacy.

"The outpouring of public support has been nothing short of remarkable," the letter said.

"To have complete strangers offer loving support in the form of money, goods and services, reaching out to help like a family member, is appreciated in ways that are impossible to put into words. Amanda, Gina and Michelle, who have asked for nothing, are frankly overwhelmed by it all."

Castro, 52, has been charged with kidnapping and rape. He is being help on an $8 million bond and has yet to enter a plea.

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