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LCSO: “The dog ate rocks and was starving to death”

Woman arrested on an animal cruelty charge
Lee County Animal Abuse Investigation
Posted at 5:44 AM, May 02, 2022
and last updated 2022-05-03 11:44:42-04

LEE COUNTY, Fla. — A woman is accused of animal cruelty after a dog was found in deplorable conditions.

Sheriff Carmine Marceno says deputies went to the home of Carmela Velazco Santiago to investigate after getting a tip and says the person who called to report these conditions is a hero because it may have saved Blanca's life.

Sheriff Marceno said the dog was found by deputies tied up and quote “The dog ate rocks and was starving to death literally and it ate rocks. Blanca was so infested with fleas that she was bleeding from several areas of her body. She's underweight, was panting heavily with such a tight tether, no shade and couldn't even reach what's being called a water bowl which was infested by fleas."

Marceno went on to say the dog’s name is Blanca and deputies immediately untied her, gave her water and the investigation began as Blanca was taken into custody by the Lee County Domestic Animal Services to get her the veterinarian care she needs. She had a temperature over 103 degrees, had to have a blood transfusion and is recovering. It's unknown exactly how long Blanca was outside in what's being called deplorable conditions.

37-year-old Carmela Velazco Santiago faces a charge of animal cruelty.

Neighbors say this wish they could have done something sooner, "Animals can't really defend themselves and I don't know it's just a shame it makes me want to cry right now," Robin McCullgh.

When asking the neighbor what kind of punishment this deserves, Robin McCullh said "Jail time it's just like abusing a child."

Santiago is out on bond and her husband Jose Ortiz spoke to FOX 4 later Monday explaining…“My girls were upset they say you know they say when’s mommy going to be home. To see somebody get arrested especially your family stuff like that you don’t want anything to happen to your family and the officer kept asking me do you care for the dog and said yes I care about anything over here these animals that’s why I don’t understand why they say we don’t feed the animal and all that kinds of stuff.”

When asked about the dog being covered in fleas?... Ortiz said, “Well this time of the year everything has fleas over here even when you give them a bath.”

Jose does acknowledge the dogs condition, "I’m not saying it was in really really good condition because I mean we know she’s kind of old and she started to lose the hair.”

Ortiz says Blanca is 13 years old and when asked if they know what’s happening next with this case? “She believes it’s in the good hands of the Lord that whatever happens she’s going to take it.”

Sheriff Marceno, "We charge the maximum charge it can when it fits the criteria in this case it's felony animal cruelty. There's not an uptick in cases this has gone on unfortunately in the past what we see now is people calling it in."

He says "see it say it" is working which helps law enforcement get to these kinds of problems faster because someone reported it.

No other animals were found on the property at the time of the search. Sheriff Marceno says this case will now go in front of the state attorney.


LCSO animal cruelty press conference