Two Lee County pet owners have been charged with cruelty to animals under Florida State Statute, specifically for depriving their dogs of necessary sustenance.
The owners face up to $5,000 in fines and up to one year in jail if found guilty.
Both cases involved dogs that were suffering from severe malnutrition. The dogs had visible ribs and hip bones protruding and weighed only half of what their normal body weight should be.
On Feb. 20, Animal Control officers responded to a call in North Fort Myers and found a dog tethered in the front yard.
The female Catahoula mix named China was extremely weak and weighed only 23 pounds. The owner also admitted his dog had recently given birth to a litter of puppies.
Animal Services' veterinarian estimates the mother dog and puppies had been suffering from worms and a lack of food and proper nutrition for weeks.
China and her puppies were transferred to Gulf Coast Humane Society and will remain in foster care until they have recovered and can be adopted into new homes.
On March 6, Animal Control officers responded to a call regarding an American Staffordshire Terrier in Lehigh Acres.
The dog was so emaciated she was immediately transported to Animal Services shelter for treatment. A microchip ID led officers to her owner.
Animal Services' records indicated that Bella had been picked up as a stray six months earlier when she weighed 57 pounds and now only weighed 31 pounds.
Bella is now in the care of S.P.AY. L.E.E. until she recuperates and is ready for adoption.
"Animals do not need to starve or suffer and owners wouldn't need to face prosecution for animal cruelty if they would take advantage of our free programs which provide pet food and veterinary care for owners receiving government assistance," Donna Ward, LCDAS director, said.
"There are also low-cost clinics available for pet owners who do not receive government assistance but may be experiencing financial difficulty," she added.