Caribou police are searching for the suspected owner of this male pitbull mix, which was found locked in a closet of a home on the Belanger Road as the new homeowners were renovating. Credit: Courtesy of Caribou Police Department

CARIBOU, Maine — Caribou police are searching for the owner of a male dog found abandoned and locked in a closet when the new owners of the house began renovating the building.

The dog was in dire need of food and medical care, and the owner potentially faces animal cruelty charges.

The new owners of a home on Belanger Road found the likely pitbull mix puppy locked inside a closet on Wednesday. Police officers are holding the dog while awaiting a state animal welfare officer, who will take it to Central Aroostook Humane Society in Presque Isle for medical treatment.

This male pitbull mix was found locked in a closet of a home on the Belanger Road as the new homeowners were renovating. (Courtesy of Caribou Police Department)

Caribou Police are not sure how old the dog is or how long it had been in the closet.

“Once the humane society looks at him, we’ll have a better idea of whether he’s suffered any infections or serious injuries,” officer Douglas Bell said. “Once we’re able to interview the owner and know the dog’s condition, we’ll have a better idea of what we might charge them with.”

Under Maine law, those arrested for these types of allegations could be charged with cruelty or aggravated cruelty to animals, depending on the severity of the animal’s medical condition. A conviction could lead to a $500 fee for each violation, and the person could be held liable for the animal’s medical treatment expenses.

A court could also prohibit the person from owning an animal or working around animals for at least five years.

Bell said that Caribou police are following leads related to two people who could potentially be the dog’s owner. He did not disclose the address where the dog was found because both of the people are suspected to be homeless and were not the home’s previous owners.

“We suspect that they were squatting [in the home],” Bell said.

Bell said that the house likely was vacant for many months before the new owners purchased it and began renovating.

The dog was acting aggressive after officers took him from the closet, likely because of the abandonment and lack of proper food and care, Bell said.

Caribou police are urging anyone with information on the dog and his owner to contact the department at 207-493-3301.