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MICANOPY ‒ Four Micanopy residents were arrested Wednesday, April 27, after an Alachua County Sheriff’s Deputy was called to a residence in response to a neighbor’s report of animal cruelty. An additional four more people were subsequently charged in the case following investigation.

According to the deputy’s report, when he arrived at the residence, he found a large number of dogs in “obviously frail and neglected condition.” As he approached the house several dogs, including three young puppies, were laying in the driveway and were “too weak to physically stand on their own.”

Additional dogs were located surrounding the house, all of which he said “appeared extremely malnourished indicated by the visible presence of the ribs showing through their skin.”

During interviews the deputy established that Erin Alexandra Douglas, 27, Kimberly Ann Hicks, 43, William Cecil Garcia, 27, and Dawson Alan Hicks, 22, lived at the residence at 17415 S.E. County Road 234, Micanopy, the location of the dogs.

Stephen Lancaster also said he was a resident living on the property in a camper. William Ferguson, Sr. and Debra Ferguson were also identified as residents and made statements that they assisted in the care and custody of the dogs. Stephanie Prentzler, another resident, said she lived in a shed on the property.

Erin Douglas said she recently moved back into the house after being gone for a few months and indicated that several of the dogs belonged to her as well.

Kimberly Hicks, also a resident, said she assumed custody and control of the animals since her ex-boyfriend moved out of the residence over a month ago. She told deputies that she knew the dogs needed help and has been feeding them, but has not contacted anyone for assistance other than trying to get her ex-boyfriend to take them.

During discussion with the deputy, William Garcia said that there were multiple deceased puppies buried at the location, in addition to the two deceased inside of a kennel on the front porch. He said the puppies died approximately a month previously when it was cold and they were buried to the back side of a camper on the property. Three small dog skeletons were located above ground in the area Garcia described.

The Sheriff’s report indicated a total of 19 dogs were found alive, but in questionable condition, and were located mixed in with the five deceased dogs, three of which were skeletal remains only. Alachua County Animal Control assisted in the investigation and stated that “the condition of many of the animals was life-threatening and cause for immediate removal and veterinary care.” Two additional dogs were found in separate cages in the woods without food or water.

A description of the condition of the structure, along with the yard and camper, was described as “unhealthy for humans or animals.”

The four main residents were arrested and charged with 24 counts of aggravated animal cruelty and five counts of unlawful disposal of a dead animal.

The Fergusons and Prentzler are charged with 24 counts of aggravated animal cruelty and five counts of unlawful disposal of a dead animal via sworn complaint. Steven Lancaster is charged with 24 counts aggravated animal cruelty, five counts of unlawful disposal of a dead animal and one count of dumping raw human waste via sworn complaint.

Alachua County Animal Resources and Care has worked with the confiscated animals and they are now reporting that they actually received 22 dogs and one pig. The agency says they have received numerous calls to adopt the animals.

“These animals will not be available for adoption for some time,” said Alachua County Communications Director Mark Sexton. They are undergoing evaluation and extensive veterinary care to help rehabilitate them and improve their physical and emotional condition.

However, Sexton said that the best thing concerned citizens can do at this time is to adopt another animal from the facility to make room for the dogs that have just been confiscated.

“We are bulging at the seams right now and there are many animals that are healthy and looking for their forever homes,” said Sexton. “People who adopt at this time will ease the burden on the facility and make room for these unfortunate animals to get the care they deserve.”

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