LEE COUNTY, Fla. — Lee County Sheriff’s Office said their animal cruelty task force has investigated thousands of cases this year alone.
There have been nine felony arrests associated with those cases - and, after speaking with Sheriff Carmine Marceno and the Gulf Coast Humane Society, we learned that when deputies head to these cases, they find drug use or worse abuse also taking place.
Gary Willoughby, the executive director of Gulf Coast Humane Society, said he’s seen animals from all sorts of cases come to Gulf Coast Humane Society to adopt out.
“We, just last week, took 17 dogs and cats from Lee County Domestic Animal Services,” Willoughby said. “We don’t know a lot about the background.”
Willoughby said that, in his experience, when authorities investigate an animal cruelty case, it usually doesn’t stop at animal abuse.
“I’ve seen children being neglected, abused,” Willoughby said. “I’ve seen domestic violence issues - certainly seen a lot of other crimes being committed.”
Sheriff Carmine Marceno said that’s only part of what his animal cruelty task force has discovered.
"We may be called to a house for an alleged neglect or abuse of an animal and we find drugs, someone has a warrant we’ve had cases where domestic violence has gone bad between two parties and in the process of investigating that domestic, we find an abused or neglected animal.” Sheriff Marcelo said. “There’s so many different things that branch off with the animal complaint.”
These types of stories are reasons why both the sheriff’s office and the Gulf Coast Humane Society say it’s so important to make the call.
“There may be other crimes being committed there that we’ll never know about without good citizens reaching out and telling us about it,” Willoughby said. “I’ve been in a variety of locations and no two cases are exactly alike.”
Sheriff Marceno said nothing will stop his deputies from going and investigating when they get a call.
"Seven days a week 24-seven - we get that call, we’re going,” Sheriff Marceno said.
If for any reason you feel you can’t or shouldn’t call the Lee County Sheriff’s Office, you can remain anonymous by calling Southwest Florida Crime Stoppers at 1-800-784-8477.