UPDATE: A year later we still see horrible cases of this kind of abuse and neglect all over our area. Bella, now named Hope, is thriving in her new home.
The case against her former owner was settled giving the Defendant 6 months probation, 25 hours of community service (at an animal shelter if allowed) and an order of no possession or ownership of animals. Hope's former owner has a criminal past in addition to the charges brought against her, including assault with a deadly weapon. So we ask....does the punishment fit the crime?
WE NEED TOUGHER LAWS IN FLORIDA...LAWS THAT PROTECT INNOCENT ANIMALS AND THOSE WEAKER THEN THOSE WHO PREY ON THEM LIKE CHILDREN AND ELDERLY. THE ONES WHO DON'T VALUE LIFE AND WANT TO TREAT THOSE WHO CAN'T FIGHT BACK AS OBJECTS NEED TO BE STOPPED!
On March 6, 2014, Bella - an American Staffordshire Terrier or Pit Bull, was found roaming in Lehigh Acres, Florida. She was taken by Lee County Domestic Animal Services. At the time, Bella was severely malnourished, dehydrated and near death. Her gums were yellowed from anemia. Yet in her struggle to stay alive Bella had some spirit in her eyes despite her defeat.
This story becomes more remarkable as Bella was micro-chipped and the micro-chip led to a house in the very neighborhood in which Bella was found. No neighbors ever recall seeing this dog before the day she was found in such poor condition. As it turns out, her owner, Gerri Michelle Austile had adopted her just about six months prior to her being found in such horrible condition. In just six short months Bella had lost half her body weight, was covered in sores and bite marks, had hookworms and tested heartworm positive and much more as a result of little or no care from her adopter.
There are charges pending in Lee County, Florida against Gerri Michelle Austile. It is believed that she also has other dogs in her care.
This is not a case of a dog running away and being on the loose for weeks on end. This dog had not been seen by any neighbors prior to March 6th. Bella was fortunate enough to escape and get loose that day so that she could be found and cared for in a way she was not by her adoptive owner. Ms. Austile claims that Bella ran away and got in that condition afterwards. Ironic that she had never been seen by anyone in the area before that day and was found so close to home.
We ask that you join with us to get Justice For Bella and possibly save other dogs that may be in this defendant's care. Please help us send an overwhelming message to Judge Josephine Gagliardi and all the local Lee County Judges in the 20th Judicial Court that Lee County, Florida residents and people around the world are tired of the daily reports of animal cruelty and abuse in Southwest Florida. Stricter punishments and maximum sentences are needed to stop this daily cycle in Southwest Florida.
As a p.s. Bella is thriving under the care of a SPAY-LEE, a local animal rescue. She is fast on her way to regaining her normal body weight. Her fearful and defeated demeanor has been replaced by one of a proud and playful dog. She is undergoing slow-kill heartworm treatment, is free of hookworms and is now living the life of a normal, loved and cared for dog.