On Thursday, June 25, 2015, PCSO Agricultural Crimes detectives arrested 52-year-old Walter Manuel of 1136 Carefree Cove Drive in Winter Haven and charged him with Felony Animal Cruelty.
According to the affidavit, on Wednesday, June 24, 2015, PCSO Animal Control received an anonymous call from someone who drove by the aforementioned address and saw what appeared to be a severely malnourished dog in the yard. When Animal Control Officers arrived, they found an approximately 3-year-old tan pit bull/cur mix male dog in very poor health. The dog’s owner, Manuel, surrendered the dog to Animal Control.
Upon examination of the dog, Animal Control Veterinarian Dr. Abbe DeGroat gave the dog a score of 5 on the Tuffs score chart, with 1 being excellent health and 5 being the worst. The dog weighed 44.6 pounds and his skeletal structure was visible through his skin. The dog was in severe distress and had serious breathing problems. Dr. DeGroat’s professional opinion was that the dog was suffering immensely and would need to be euthanized, which she performed around 2:25 p.m. that day.
Dr. DeGroat immediately performed a necropsy on the dog and found the dog’s esophagus was extremely thickened to the point the dog could barely swallow. The lymph nodes around the esophagus were enlarged and inflamed. Dr. Degroat stated the thickening of the esophagus was chronic and had happened over time causing the dog to lose weight. The dog’s stomach was 75% full of sand – it is presumed the dog was without food to the point where he was eating dirt. The dog also had a systemic lung infection. Dr. Degroat stated that the dog suffered for an extended period of time and the dog starved to near death from the disorder of his esophagus not being treated, the loss of weight and the little to no proper diet. The dog suffered a cruel life from lack of proper care and Veterinarian care over an extended period of time.
On Thursday, Agricultural Crimes detectives responded to Manuel’s place of employment (Carpenters Contractors of America in Winter Haven) and placed him under arrest for the aforementioned charge. Manuel did not speak with deputies upon his arrest. Manuel has been in the Polk County Jail on six prior occasions.
“We take animal cruelty very seriously in Polk County. Anyone who would treat an animal like this—watching it starve to death—deserves to be held accountable by our criminal justice system, and should never again be allowed to own animals.” – Sheriff Grady Judd