PENDER COUNTY, NC (WECT) - The Pender County Sheriff's Office charged a man after six adult pit bulls and six puppies, that were just a couple of days old, were found starving and freezing in a Pender County home.
Damien Lee Stephens, of New Hanover County, faces six counts of animal cruelty for "depriving" the animals of "necessary sustenance."
Animal Control officers say it started when they discovered several dogs being kept outside at Stephens' Pender home with no shelter.
At that time, they say the dogs were not malnourished. When officers returned to see if the dogs were given shelter, they found that not only had no shelter been built, but the dogs appeared to be starving.
Animal Control officers say they posted a note, and returned the next day with a warrant.
When they returned, officers say they found two dead puppies outside near a trash can.
Inside, officers say they found three more adult pit bulls who were malnourished. They say the animals were being locked inside with no power, food or water.
In fact, officers say the toilet water was missing from the toilet bowls because they say the dogs drank all of it. Officers also found six puppies that were 3-5 days old.
Animal Shelter officials say the puppies were so cold when they were taken out of the home, that it took them hours to warm up, and their temperature was so low it didn't even register on a thermometer. Because their mother was so malnourished the puppies were not able to nurse at all.
"She was so emaciated that she had no milk, so those puppies were born into starvation," said Jewell Horton, of the Pender County Animal Shelter. "They never got their first meal, they never got any of their Colostrum from their mother, that is where they get all of their anti-bodies to help them survive, and so the fact that they made it as long as they had is impressive. They were just so cold you couldn't get a reading on the thermometers that is very life-threatening."
Two of the adult dogs found inside were also covered in bite marks, officials believe that the dogs were fighting each other for food.
"We can only imagine what they have been through when they were left alone in that house, and what they did to survive. It's amazing that they made it as long as they did."
Officials say the dogs have racked up about $5,000 in medical costs and vet bills.
All of the dogs needed fluids and many needed medical care. The puppies' mother had to have surgery, after a bite in her ear got infected, and another one of the adult dogs needed a blood transfusion after she got too sick. The other four adult dogs are at the animal shelter.
Right now, the puppies are in a foster home because they need around the clock care, and need to be fed every two hours. One of the puppies didn't make it, but officials say the other five seem to be doing well.
Once the dogs recover, they will be available for adoption.
If you would like to adopt, or help donate money for medical costs for the dogs, just contact the Pender County Animal Shelter.
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