Lexington Park Man Charged with Animal Cruelty for Neglecting Dogs

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Southern Maryland News Net

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On Wednesday, January 16, 2018, Deputy Austin Schultz of the St. Mary's County Sheriff's Office responded to a residence in the area of Midway Drive and Ranger Road in Lexington Park to assist animal control with a complaint. The day before, animal control officer John Miedzinski saw an emaciated dog and several puppies at the residence while performing a welfare check on the dogs. Miedzinski was chased off the property upon arrival by the homeowner, identified as Joseph William Smith, 24, of Lexington Park.

Upon arriving at the residence, Dep. Schultz knocked on the door and heard two dogs barking inside. A woman opened the door, and a brown dog — which police believe is an American pit bull terrier — ran outside. Schultz noticed the dog was malnourished, with its ribs clearly visible and appearing extremely underweight. The dog appeared to have given birth recently as its teats were visibly distended.

With the door to the residence ajar, Schultz spotted several small puppies laying on the floor. He was told by the woman that the puppies were five weeks old and that there were thirteen puppies total, but that only six were still at the residence.

The woman decided to call her significant other, Joseph Smith, talking to him briefly before voluntarily handing the phone to Dep. Schultz. Smith told Schultz that there were actually 12 puppies in the litter and that they were seven weeks old. Two puppies died and four were "re-homed," Smith explained to Schultz.

The woman at the residence proceeded to bring the other dog to Dep. Schultz, who observed a white and gray dog with an open wound on its tail that also appeared to be an American pitbull terrier. The dog, like the other one Schultz saw earlier, was emaciated, with its ribs and spine showing.

Due to the poor condition of the dogs, animal control officer Joy Wilson made the determination that all the dogs, including the puppies, needed to be removed from the house. Upon loading the dogs into the animal control vehicle, Officer Wilson checked the puppies' gums, all of which were a pale white color, which indicates malnourishment.

While the dogs were being tended to, Joseph Smith arrived at the scene and began yelling and screaming profanities. Smith hollered that the puppies were "five weeks old," directly contradicting his earlier statement that the puppies were seven weeks old. Smith was yelling so loudly and vociferously that a crowd formed as neighbors stepped outside to see what was happening.

Eventually, and after additional screaming and disobedience displayed by Smith, Dep. Schultz placed Joseph Smith under arrest and transported him to the St. Mary's County Detention Center, where he was charged with four counts of selling a puppy underage, six counts of animal cruelty, disorderly conduct, resisting arrest, and obstruction/hindering the investigation.

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