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Judge accuses Houston animal rescuer of lying, fabricating evidence

HOUSTON – In a sternly written order, a district court judge has said she believes the director of a Houston dog rescue group lied on the stand and fabricated evidence in the case of a "rescued" pug.

Cindy Rothermel, 56, is the director of PugHearts of Houston, a nonprofit pug rescue group that focuses specifically on the pug breed.

Rothermel and PugHearts were sued by a woman who claimed Rothermel would not give back a dog named Lily to the rightful owner, Rhina Cantu, who has cancer.

Rothermel refused to let Cantu see the dog after she could not present identification or medical records for the animal.

Rothermel said, under oath, that Lily was adopted out of state. But the story appears to have been fabricated, the judge concluded.

File: Rhina Cantu Show Cx Ord Sanctions S_20181127170225

“The Court finds that Ms. Rothermel’s October 19, 2018, false testimony and written representations to this Court that the dog was adopted and placed outside the jurisdiction was an attempt to interfere with the Court’s exercise of its jurisdiction, and delayed the orderly and expeditious administration of justice,” Judge Sylvia Matthews wrote in the Order of Sanctions on Sunday.

Rothermel and PugHearts returned the dog to Cantu. Lily and Cantu had been separated for more than three months.

Rothermel’s biggest legal trouble may be ahead of her.

The judge is referring the case to the Harris County District Attorney’s Office for criminal investigation.

In addition, Rothermel is ordered to alert local animal shelters of the judge’s findings.