CITRUS COUNTY, Fla. (WFLA) – A Crystal River woman faces felony animal cruelty charges after Animal Control officers seized three of her dogs, two of which were found in “very horrific” conditions, according to the Citrus County Sheriff’s Office.
Deputies said a Good Samaritan spotted one of the dogs, a blind nine-pound Shih Tzu, wandering around alone in a neighborhood near the 8400 block of West Gen Chennault Lane in Crystal River.
“The dog is totally blind (and was in the middle of the street) but worse than that was the body condition of the dog. She was severely underweight but she also had mats and dreadlocks caked and encrusted with feces and urine hanging from 95% of her body that, when shaved off by the vet, weighed 3 lbs AND HAD MAGGOTS LIVING UNDER THE MATTED FUR,” the sheriff’s office wrote on Facebook. A vet later removed a five-inch wire out of one of the dreadlocks. The vet and her staff said this was the worse animal neglect case they had ever seen, according to the sheriff’s office.
The Good Samaritan kept the dog safe until Animal Control arrived. Responding Animal Control officers went door to door and eventually found someone who recognized the dog, who could direct them to the owners’ home.
The owners weren’t at home when officers arrived, but two additional dogs, a pit bull and a Chow mix, were found in the back yard.
The Chow mix was paralyzed in her back end and could not stand or walk.
“Each time the Chow mix took three to four steps, its hind end would collapse to the ground and then it would rest prior to walking again,” the affidavit stated.
The dog was also blind and its fur was badly matted, deputies said. The third dog shows minor signs of neglect, but deputies said she had not been in the owners’ care as long as the other two pets.
Police finally located and questioned one of the owners, Joi-Marie Richheimer, 45, who admitted to owning the dogs and told police she “didn’t mean for them to get this bad,” according to the affidavit.
She was taken into custody and charged with two counts of aggravated animal cruelty. Her bond was set to $4,000.