FLAGLER COUNTY, Fla. – One of the dogs found abandoned in a Palm Coast house in deplorable conditions was so malnourished it needed to be carried out on an emergency stretcher, officials with the Flagler County Sheriff's Office said.
After receiving a tip about the dogs, Palm Coast Animal Control officers and Flagler County deputies found three dogs on Aug. 15 in "grave condition" at a home on Richmond Drive. The dogs, including a German shepherd mix, husky and pit bull, were left on a back porch for at least 16 days without food or water, deputies said.
The husky and shepherd mix were able to walk out with animal control officers, but the 3-year-old pit bull weighing 28 pounds was unable to stand because of muscle wasting and malnourishment.
The husky weighed 27 pounds and the shepherd mix was 38 pounds, officers said. All three of the dogs' ribs and bones were protruding and they were covered in fleas.
Two of the dogs were released and are recovering with foster families and are expected to be adopted. The pit bull remains hospitalized, but is expected to recover and go to a new home.
“There is no excuse for what happened to these dogs. Sixteen days trapped without food and water on a hot porch during the summer is horrific cruelty” Sheriff Rick Staly said.
Deputies said they learned that Rochely Ann Lopez-Colon, 25, was supposed to be caring for the dogs. She told deputies she had not been at the house since July 30 and the dogs belonged to her estranged husband, who was arrested in April and not allowed at the home. Lopez-Colon said when her husband left he took "all her money, food, income tax, and shut the water and electric off," and Lopez-Colon told deputies that she asked someone to inform her husband that he needed to come get the dogs.
"She then went to live with her mother and basically said 'The dogs are his problem, they're his property,'" said Undersheriff Jack Bisland.
Lopez-Colon said she called the Human Society once, but didn't make arrangements for the dogs to be picked up and it was "ironic" because when she got paid on Friday she was going to pay someone to help her get the dogs and her stuff.
Detectives asked Lopez-Colon if she thought the dogs would even have been alive at that point, because they had been left on the back porch without food or water for 25 days. She replied, "That's definitely what I ask my husband when he did all that nonsense."
Lopez-Colon is charged with three counts of aggravated animal cruelty. When she arrived at the Flagler County jail she was also charged with possession of a controlled substance. She is held on a $15,000 bail.
"When you're going to assume the responsibility, the care, custody and control of an animal who is completely dependent upon you, just like children, you have to live up to that responsibility," Brisband said. "Anything short of it, particularly in this case, is absolutely horrific, deplorable and inexcusable."