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The hunt for three missing puppies on Sunday at a neighborhood off Great Mills Road ended with their rescue from a trash bin, and a trip to the county jail for a woman living with their owner.

Tammy Maria Curtis, 49, of Lexington Park was released from custody Monday on personal recognizance, to await a court hearing on the three charges of animal cruelty. The three Yorkshire terriers, which were born two weeks ago, were back with their owner, and their mother, police said this week, and appeared to be in good condition.

Law officers arriving Sunday at the home at Indian Bridge Apartments met with Angela Marie Thomas, court papers state, and she told them that she was trying to have Curtis evicted. “The victim advised she [had earlier] attempted to obtain a protective order against the defendant, because the defendant was violent and would not pay her side of the rent,” the court papers state, “but [Thomas] was told to return at a later date.”

Thomas told police that when she got back home after the attempt to obtain the protective order, Curtis claimed to have killed the puppies and refused to say where they were, according to a statement of probable cause filed by St. Mary’s sheriff’s deputy Matthew McCuen.

Law officers and a firefighting vehicle were on the scene when Lois Thomas, who also has an apartment in that community, went outside to the trash bin. “I was taking out my trash, and I heard the puppies making a noise,” according to Thomas, who initially thought she was hearing kittens in the bin, before she went back inside and made phone calls to an after-hours maintenance line and the county’s animal control office. “They said, ‘Are you sure it’s kittens, because we’re missing puppies,’” Thomas said.

Police officers and the apartments’ manager found the puppies in the trash bin, Thomas said.

The rescued puppies, wrapped in a white trash bag, were having difficulty breathing, court papers state, and blood-stained diaper pads also were found in the bag.

“They were given back to the victim, their owner, and she put them back with the [mother] dog,” sheriff’s Sgt. Cara Grumbles said Tuesday. “Last thing we heard, they were fine.”

jwharton@somdnews.com