MOUNT CARMEL - Borough police have charged three people with cruelty to animals in connection with a puppy being abandoned along a highway between Sagon and Marion Heights earlier this month.

Johna Lynn Swank, 40; her 20-year-old daughter, Cassandra Lynn Zarick, and her boyfriend, Eric Halcovich, 20, all of 223 S. Walnut St., Mount Carmel, are charged by Patrolman David Donkochik with misdemeanors of criminal conspiracy to commit false reports and making false reports to police, and summaries of criminal conspiracy to commit cruelty to animals and cruelty to animals.

According to police, Halcovich and Zarick brought two puppies to the police station on Sept. 7, claiming they found them along Route 61 between Mount Carmel and Centralia. Donkochik said he made arrangements with the young couple to temporarily keep the dogs until he could contact Mostly Mutts, a no-kill animal shelter in the Sunbury area, to see if they could be housed there.

Halcovich allegedly told the officer they would take the dogs themselves to Mostly Mutts the next morning. But when Donkochik called the couple at 3 p.m. Sept. 8, they said they had decided to keep both puppies.

At 10:20 p.m. Sept. 8, while looking on Facebook, Donkochik said he spotted a photo of one of the dogs. A message on Facebook indicated the dog had been found along Route 2026 between Sagon and Marion Heights.

Donkochik investigated and learned the dogs were owned by Swank and that she claimed to have given one of the puppies to a female friend in Shamokin, which turned out to be a lie, police charge. During an interview with police Sept. 10, Halcovich and Zarick admitted dropping off one of the puppies along the highway between Sagon and Marion Heights after Swank told them to get rid of the dog, while keeping the other one.

Halcovich and Zarick also admitted that they lied about the dogs being found along Route 61 between Mount Carmel and Centralia, police said.

Both dogs were taken from the family and given to Mostly Mutts, where they are awaiting adoption.

Cheryl Hill, owner-operator, said one of the dogs is a red, male mixed Dachshund that is between six months and one year old. The other dog is a multi-colored male between three and four months old. She did not know the breed of the dog.

She said the mixed Dachshund was found along the highway between Sagon and Marion Heights.

Donkochik commended Hill and other "animal lover" volunteers at the shelter for their cooperation in the investigation.