Dog owner may have had good intentions, but authorities say he may have broken the law

MIDDLEBURG, Fla. – A Jacksonville man is facing a misdemeanor animal abandonment charge after doing what appeared to be the right thing but was still considered unlawful.

News4JAX is not naming the man because the charge is a misdemeanor. Also, the man surrendered himself to authorities after a warrant was issued for his arrest.

According to the arrest report, a Clay Safe Animal Shelter representative called authorities when three dogs were found abandoned in front of the shelter entrance at 6:30 a.m. The report states there were three dogs in three separate cages with a handwritten note attached. The note listed the names of each dog and an apology for leaving the dogs there. The note also stated the owner was moving and could not take the dogs.

According to investigators, Clay Safe Animal Shelter does not accept animals left at the facility during non-business hours.

One of the dogs was identified as a mixed breed in distress, so it was taken to a local veterinarian’s office for treatment but died on the way to the office. One of the other dogs started having a seizure but recovered. The report also states that the third dog was suffering from significant hair loss due to a skin problem. According to the report, all three dogs were dirty and covered in fleas.

Clay County animal services took the two remaining dogs and determined the dog that had a seizure was suffering from epilepsy and hemorrhaging in one of its eyes. The other dog with widespread hair loss was diagnosed with mange.

According to the arrest report, a Clay County sheriff’s deputy took fingerprints off the letter and the Florida Department of Law Enforcement was able to match those prints to the suspect whose fingerprints were already on file.

When authorities located the man, he reportedly admitted to leaving the dogs at the entrance of the shelter with a note explaining why he could no longer have the animals. The arrest report also states that the man told investigators that he could no longer keep the animals because they were aggressive toward his family. In addition to that statement, the man also said that he had previously tried to have Clay County Animal Services take the dogs but was denied because the shelter was at full capacity. The report states the man later told investigators that he knew it was wrong to leave the animals at the entrance of Clay Safe Animal Shelter but believed the organization would take care of the dogs.

Florida Statute 828.13(3) says any person who is the owner, possessor, or has custody of an animal is in violation of the law if they abandon the animal and it suffers malnutrition or injury. The statute also says a person is in violation if they abandon their animal in a street or public place without providing care, protection, and sustenance for the animal.

Jacksonville Humane Society (JHS) spokesperson Lindsay Layendecker said her organization offers multiple options for pet owners looking to surrender a pet without getting into legal trouble.

“We’re going to meet people where they are. We will give you a list of resources. If we personally can’t help you at JHS, we might direct you to another organization you didn’t know about that is able to help you,” Layendecker said.

Layendecker said it is common for some pet owners to feel ashamed or embarrassed about not being able to provide the care their pet needs, but she also wanted to reiterate there are options available for help.

“There’s help available. Please don’t be afraid to ask for help. Please don’t be embarrassed to ask for help. We know you want to do right by your pet, but the longer you wait, the worse it may get,” Layendecker said.

Layendecker also encourages those who are able to help a fellow pet owner who obviously needs assistance to feel free to offer what assistance they can provide, which can help prevent pets from suffering.

The JHS also said another good option to consider is reaching out to family or friends to see if they can take your pet, especially if shelters are full.

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