WEST MILFORD — A 47-year-old Morris County woman admitted that she submerged a caged dog in a pond but claims that the puppy was already dead, investigators said.

A necropsy of the animal, however, tells a different story.

Tonya Fea, of Jefferson, was charged on Tuesday by Passaic County Prosecutor Camelia M. Valdes with two counts of animal cruelty and one count of defiant trespass for the death of the 10-week-old pup.

Although Fea claims the puppy was already dead, investigators said that the dog died from asphyxiation, according to an affidavit of probable cause against Fea, NorthJersey.com reported.

The cage, which appeared to be weighed down by a vase in a plastic bag, was found April 30 in Greenwood Pond in West Milford.

Fea and her husband had been longtime customers of the West Milford Animal Center. Officials have not said why Fea placed the dog into the pond.

Fea was released pending a court date on May 22.

Two people will likely share the $12,000 reward put up by The Last Resort rescue, according to rescue director Nancy Warner.

The reward for information that would lead to an arrest started at $500 and was increased by donations from people angered at the incident.

"I'm told by the detective there were two tips specifically that were called in that led to them making an arrest," Warner told New Jersey 101.5. "I've asked the detective to put me in contact with those people so that once this woman is convicted that we can connect with them and give them their reward money."

Warner did not know the specifics of the tips. She also does not know Fea or why she might have done this.

"I have no inkling as to why she would have done this. There are so many other viable options. So many other people would have taken that puppy in a heartbeat," Warner said.

"The why is irrelevant. It's making sure justice is served and she gets the maximum penalty. And just getting the word out about this case so people know you can't do this and get away with it."

If found guilty, Fea faces five years in state prison for each of the animal cruelty charges and 30 days in the county jail on the defiant trespass charge.

New Jersey 101.5 did not know Wednesday whether Fea had an attorney who could speak on her behalf. Fea could not be reached for comment Wednesday.

Contact reporter Dan Alexander at Dan.Alexander@townsquaremedia.com or via Twitter @DanAlexanderNJ

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