A Lehigh Acres woman was charged with animal cruelty Wednesday after animal control officers responding to a call about two dogs being left tied outside without water found one bull mastiff dead and a second in distress.
The woman, described as the dogs' "caretaker for the last month," Valencia Ward, was charged with misdemeanor animal cruelty under Florida State Statute, punishable by a $5,000 fine and up to one year in jail, for the deceased canine. Ward also was cited with animal cruelty under Lee County Ordinance for the surviving dog which suffered from heat exhaustion, officials said.
The surviving dog, which officials say was treated for heat exhaustion, was released back to its owner, identified as Stacey Johnson. She was cited for failure to license and vaccinate her dog.
Officers with Lee County Domestic Animal Services responding to the animal-in-distress call at 1016 Habersan Ave. took the temperature of both the site and the dead animal.
A thermometer placed in the vicinity of the dogs registered 112 degrees Fahrenheit, officials said, adding the internal temperature of the deceased dog registered 130 degrees Fahrenheit.
As no one was home at the time, both dogs were removed from the property and brought to Animal Services' clinic where the surviving dog was treated.
Tethering dogs is legal in Lee County.
Officials said that animal control ordinance will be up for review by the Board of County Commissioners in August. The proposed ordinance would prohibit the outdoor unsupervised tethering of dogs.
Proponents of the proposed measure say officers routinely deal with problems they say are associated with tethering "which often leads to strangulation, heat exhaustion, and aggression," according to Lee County Animal Control.
Fourteen Florida cities and counties have already passed anti-tethering ordinances, officials said.
To report animal neglect or abuse call Lee County Domestic Animal Services at 239-533-7387 (LEE-Pets).
Source: Lee County Animal Control