Beaufort County Animal Control discovered two severely malnourished dogs, one of which had just given birth to eight puppies, at a St. Helena Island home this week, according to agency director Tallulah Trice.
Only two of the eight puppies were still alive as of Thursday afternoon, and the owner of the home where they were found is facing animal-cruelty charges, Trice said.
The woman brought the newborn puppies to Animal Control on Tuesday, saying they had just appeared under her mobile home, Trice said. The puppies were no more than a few days old, Trice said, so she went to the home to try to locate the mother. Trice said she found a pen with two emaciated dogs, and the woman admitted they were the puppies' parents.
The mother was taken to be with her puppies at Animal Control, but could not produce enough milk to feed them, Trice said. Most of the puppies were too weak to take a bottle, and three died overnight.
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Trice took the remaining five puppies and the mother to Port Royal Veterinary Hospital early Wednesday. Three more have since died.
An animal control officer took the father dog from the home Wednesday morning, Trice said. The officer cited the woman with 10 counts of animal cruelty and neglect, which carries a fine of as much as $1,925 per animal.
The mother and father dogs are Labrador mixes, Trice said. Both were covered in fleas and tested positive for heartworms, and their gums and tongues were white from anemia, Trice said.
Veterinary Hospital technician Morgen Smith said the mother dog's health is improving, but she still has a long road to recovery.
The mother dog remains at the veterinary hospital because she is full of parasites and can't absorb food properly, Trice said, adding she has a "real sweet disposition."
The remaining puppies are with foster parents who will bottle feed them every two hours, Trice said.
"The puppies (that died) were pretty active yesterday and seemed like they were doing better," said Morgan Smith, a veterinary technician at the animal hospital. "There was nothing grossly obvious wrong with them, so it's hard to tell if these puppies are more stable."
On Friday, Dr. Marikay Campbell of the Port Royal Veterinary Hospital will perform necropsies on the puppies that died to help Animal Control with its investigation, Smith said.
The father dog is at Animal Control, Trice said. He is very timid, and Animal Control employees have not been able to make much contact with him.
Trice said she does not think the woman was acting maliciously against the dogs, but should have sought help when she couldn't provide for them.
"The woman said (the puppies) looked sick, and she didn't know what to do, so she brought them to us," Trice said. "But the other dogs were completely emaciated. When people can't feed their dogs, they need to come to us. We're here to help."
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