Florida couple charged after leaving dog tethered to trailer, emaciated, covered in maggots

Dog was blind, deaf and left outside to die

SARASOTA, Fla. (WFTS) - A Florida couple was charged with animal cruelty after they left their dog tethered to a utility trailer, emaciated and covered in maggots.

Animal services officers in Sarasota were first made aware of the dog's condition on June 5, when a person rescued the animal.

The dog was reportedly in extreme distress, with matted fur and extreme dental decay. The 14-year-old terrier mix, named Spunik, who is both deaf and blind, was covered in maggots and attached to a cable tether without shelter.

Officers transported the dog to a veterinarian who performed humane euthanasia to end Spunik's suffering.

Deputies charged the homeowner, 55-year-old Joseph Shepherd, with abandoning an animal and animal cruelty.

Through a continued investigation, deputies learned that Shepherd's girlfriend, 62-year-old Diana Harrelson was aware of the dog's condition but moved to Mississippi in the months prior. On June 7, Harrelson contacted Animal Services in order to retrieve another dog the couple owned named Bella, who was impounded due to excessive parasites and fleas.

During interviews with deputies, Harrelson admitted the last time she took Spunik to a veterinarian was in August 2016. Harrelson claimed she didn't have enough money to pay for euthanasia and wanted Spunik to die a natural death.

Harrelson was given a notice to appear Monday and faced the same charges as Shepherd. She was released on a $2,120 bond.

Bella remains in the custody of the Sarasota County Animal Services Section and will more than likely be transferred to a rescue facility at a later date.

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