ASPCA: Panhandling Dog Not Abused

By Chris Glorioso
|  Thursday, May 26, 2011  |  Updated 6:31 AM EDT
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The owner of the panhandling dog speaks to NBC New York and says his pup is treated well.

Chris Glorioso

The owner of the panhandling dog speaks to NBC New York and says his pup is treated well.

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Animal control officials have examined the dog often seen panhandling outside Mets and Yankees games and say the pooch bears "no signs of abuse or neglect."

The dog, which is typically dressed in baseball jerseys and earns $75 in a day's work, was examined Wednesday by the American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals, a day after NBC New York was first to track down the owner.

"It was determined that she bore no signs of abuse or neglect," the ASPCA said in a statement. "The ASPCA will continue to monitor this situation and be prepared to take action, in the event that any New York State animal cruelty laws are being violated."

The owner, Norberto Fernandez, of Queens, spoke exclusively with NBC New York on Tuesday and said he is a professional dog trainer who rescued the pooch, named Coffee, from the streets and taught it to pose and hold a pipe in its mouth.

"All I do is train dogs and people are starting to hate on me -- they're surprised of all the tricks my dog can do," Fernandez told NBC New York in Spanish, with his daughter interpreting.

The dog wears a Wright No. 5 jersey for Mets games, pinstripes for Yankee games and has a plastic container for donations at her feet when she is working.

Some animal lovers have alleged that she works without water or rest -- allegations Fernandez denies.

Outcry over Coffee's situation prompted the creation of a Facebook page, "Stop Abusing Coffee," that has more than 8,200 fans.

Some of Coffee's Facebook followers also insist she wears a shock collar.

The dog owner's daughter, Wendy Fernandez, says Coffee does not wear such a device, and an ASPCA veterinarian found no evidence of one on Wednesday.

Norberto Fernandez showed NBC New York a collar that can be filled with ice to keep the pooch cool when she wears a baseball jersey in the summer heat.

Some kinds of shock collars are legal for dog owners to use in New York state.   

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