Two Charged for Animal Cruelty After 17 Animals Found Dehydrated in U-Haul

Two pet owners were arrested in Florida Wednesday after police found 17 dehydrated animals in the back of a U-Haul. The owners of the animals, Jason Donellan-Sparks and Shawna Doud, are being held on a $5,000 bond and face charges of animal cruelty.

The Flagler County Sheriff's Office (FCSO) said in a Facebook post that their officers responded to a call Wednesday about an "animal problem."

The witness heard chirping from the back of the U-Haul and watched as the female occupant of the truck (Doud) opened the liftgate. Once the liftgate was opened, the witness saw dogs, cats and puppies "in distress," all panting with their tongues out.

When Doud began to spray the animals with water, the witness demanded that she remove the animals from the truck and remain at the scene until the police could arrive.

FCSO states that the dogs were "severely dehydrated" upon their arrival, and noted that the dogs were "obviously in distress." In addition to being dehydrated, the dogs' fur was matted and the animals were covered in feces. The responding officers placed the animals in cages outside of the truck, cleaned them off and provided all of them with drinking water.

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Two people were arrested in Florida after 17 dehydrated animals were found in the back of their U-Haul, on the brink of death. This is a stock photo of a person in handcuffs. choochart choochaikupt/iStock

When Palm Coast Animal Control arrived on the scene, they confirmed for officers that the animals had not been properly cared for and warned that if the animals had been forced to stay inside the U-Haul any longer, they likely would have died. The animals were taken into custody and brought to a veterinarian for further evaluation.

In total, there were four cats and 13 dogs in the back of the U-Haul, all without water in their cages. Police state that only the cats had food.

Bodycam footage from the incident shows the responding officer speaking with Donellan-Sparks as they make their way to the U-Haul.

He tells the officer that the whining is coming from their puppies, and claims that he and Doud are moving the animals into the car to get them some A/C. When they enter the truck, he says that he "doesn't know" where their water is, and the responding officer rushes Donellan-Sparks to remove the puppies from the vehicle.

"They're dying, do you understand this?" she asks.

Eventually, Donellan-Sparks and Doud are arrested.

Sheriff Rick Staly said in a statement that the incident was a "great example of 'see something, say something.'"

"Thank you to the citizen who spoke up and called us," he said. "I'm glad the animals are now in the hands of Animal Control and out of the custody of these two who obviously don't know how to care for them. The Florida heat is dangerous and animals do not belong in vehicles without proper airflow as the result can be deadly."

In the state of Florida, any person who "unnecessarily overloads, overdrives, torments, deprives of necessary sustenance or shelter, or unnecessarily mutilates, or kills any animal, or causes the same to be done, or carries in or upon any vehicle, or otherwise, any animal in a cruel or inhumane manner, commits animal cruelty." In this case, animal cruelty is a misdemeanor offense.

In 2016, as a response to a particularly bad heat wave, then-Governor Rick Scott signed into law a bill that allows a "good samaritan" to damage a motor vehicle with the intent to save a person or pet, so long as an individual ensures that the vehicle is locked, calls the proper authorities before attempting to rescue the animal and stays with the animal or person until authorities have arrived.

Individuals must also have a reasonable belief that the person or animal is in "imminent danger" and must only use the force necessary to break in. This law is especially important during the summer, as Florida is known for its sweltering heat.