The mother of a 10-year-old girl and the woman's boyfriend are each facing a felony charge after the child was seen riding in a dog cage by other drivers on the Pennsylvania Turnpike, police said.
Millvale police responded after getting reports from motorists who saw the girl in the bed of a blue pickup truck around 7 p.m. on Memorial Day. Police got the license plate and went to the address where the vehicle is registered, but the truck was not there.
"Officer Gapsy and I then set up on the area, and a short time later observed the vehicle turn onto Friday Road from Evergreen Road and a traffic stop was made. Officers could see the open bed of the truck, which had a dog cage with a small dog and a juvenile female in the cage," Officer Brandon Morgan wrote in the criminal complaint.
When police asked the driver, 30-year-old Thomas Fishinger, why the child was in the cage in the bed of the truck, his response was that "she asked to be with the dog," Morgan wrote.
Fishinger said that he and the girl and her 29-year-old mother, Abbey Carlson, were coming from his mother's house in Beaver County, according to the complaint.
Fishinger and Carlson were taken into custody and charged with a felony count of endangering the welfare of a child, police said.
The child's maternal grandmother, who did not want to be identified, said that the girl was with her on Tuesday morning and is embarrassed by the incident. She said that the girl did ask to be in the cage, and that the parents didn't think she was in danger with the cage strapped down.
"It was just an innocent mistake on their behalf, and it was nothing more than that," the grandmother said. "Yes, I quite possibly think that she could have been in danger. But I don't think that they were thinking of it that way. They would never put her in danger -- never. I know they wouldn't."
Nobody answered the door at the suspects' home in Millvale on Tuesday morning.