PALM CITY, Fla.- A Palm City man surrendered his fifteen English Mastiffs to Animal Care and Control Sunday, following a several months-long investigation.
Officers say it started in November. That's when they responded to the home of Joe Heller to find more than a dozen English Mastiffs tied to trees, fences or put in crates and horse stalls.
According to a county ordinance, this was not "proper care" of the animals. Officers came back in February and found not much had changed.
Officer Jordan Grose gave Heller an "order to provide care" to the dogs. Heller had several weeks to make some changes, give the dogs proper shelter, and set up a pulley system so they could move throughout his yard.
When Animal Care officers returned on March 4, they found nothing had changed.
Grose says, "He didn't have any criminal violations as far as animal cruelty or animal neglect. It was just basic improper care."
Rather than get cited for improper care, Grose says Heller surrendered the dogs.
Monday morning, Candice Veach came to work at the Humane Society of the Treasure Coast to find the dogs in her shelter.
Veach says, "They haven't slept in a bed in a house, they haven't been loved, they haven't been petted. Most of them looked like they hadn't even had a bath, other than maybe the rain outside."
According to Animal Control officers, the dogs were used as a hobby "backyard breeding" program in Heller's yard. The dogs range in age from ten months to five years old.
Veach says the youngest, a ten month old female, may have already had two litters of mastiffs.
"They're young. I mean, they didn't even get a life but to be bred out," Veach says.
Many of the dogs have been spayed or neutered. They've also been put on medicine for skin and eye irritations and given vaccinations. They also have microchips inside them now. Veach says the dogs were infested with fleas when the shelter received them.
Twelve of the fifteen are ready to be adopted. The others need foster homes, until they're ready to go to a permanent home. Veach says they need owners who will be extra patient with them. Since they've lived outside most of their lives, many of them are not house trained.
If you'd like to adopt of the dogs, you can check them out at the Humane Society of the Treasure Coast . It's located 4100 SW Leighton Farm Avenue, in Palm City.
Humane Society of Treasure Coast: http://www.hstc1.org/