July 19, 2024

Citrus Times

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Animal rescue owner facing 25 counts of animal cruelty

4 min read
Robert Allan Schweickert Jr.

Citrus County Sheriff’s Office (CCSO) officials on Wednesday arrested “Out of the Box Animal Rescue” owner, 56-year-old Robert Allan Schweickert Jr., on 25 counts of cruelty to animals with additional charges pending.

The Sheriff’s Office said that Schweickert, who owned and also operated “Out of the Box Animal Rescue” at 7007 South Florida Ave. in Floral City, failed to correct prior citations issued by officials regarding inadequate kennel sizes and inhumane housing of animals at the rescue.

His current bond is set at $12,500.

“Under the guise of a rescue, these precious animals suffered in deplorable conditions because of one man’s refusal to provide the basic, minimum requirements of care,” said Citrus County Sheriff Mike Prendergast.

“Thank you to our resilient Animal Control Officers (ACO’s) who work diligently to protect our animal friends here in Citrus County. And thank you to those citizens who had the courage to speak up and get these animals the help they needed.”

The CCSO received multiple complaints regarding the conditions at “Out of the Box Animal Rescue”. During the CCSO’s initial investigation into these complaints, Schweickert was cited for and found guilty of failing to meet Citrus County Code of Ordinances Chapter 14, Sec. 14-49 (a)(1), regarding the required kennel space of 80 sq. ft. per dog in November 2020. During this incident, CCSO Animal Control Officers (ACO) issued Schweickert a citation, giving him 10 days to bring his kennels in compliance with this ordinance.

After failing to comply, on Jan. 7, the honorable Judge Carney ordered Schweickert to allow ACO Gallant to enter the rescue property on Jan. 12, at 9 a.m. to inspect and document kennel sizes and housing practices of the animals on scene. When ACO Gallant arrival on scene for the court-ordered inspection, Schweickert failed to appear at the rescue.

While waiting over an hour past the designated time, ACO Gallant and assisting deputies were able to gather evidence showing several violations from the outside fenced area of the rescue.

Later in the day, Schweickert was observed by deputies outside the front gate of the rescue. ACO Gallant once again responded to the rescue and asked Schweickert if he would allow him to enter at that time to inspect the property.

Schweickert refused to allow ACO Gallant access to the rescue. Taking the existing evidence collected, along with the refusal of the court-ordered inspection, the State Attorney’s Office issued a warrant for Schweickert’s arrest under F.S. 828.13.

ACO’s, along with assisting CCSO deputies, responded back out to the animal rescue where they located Schweickert and two volunteers upon arrival. Schweickert was arrested without further incident.

Officials entered the property and inspected the living conditions of these animals. They discovered numerous violations, both civil and criminal, regarding housing and care of the animals on the premises. Violations on scene included: the failure to meet county ordinance regarding kennel space of 80 sq. ft. per dog required, several kennels left outside in the elements with no coverage while other small kennels were found with corrugated roofs and tarps wrapped around the entire kennel – drastically restricting the airflow to the animal, and kennels with wood or particleboard floors that were urine saturated, rotten, with large holes gaping open. Several dogs need medical care and were infested with fleas.

Some of the most disturbing conditions discovered included dogs locked inside bathrooms with no windows or lights, with urine covered floors. Sadly, one dog was found living in an old walk-in freezer type unit that doubled as a storage room. The unit was similar to the box of a moving van – completely metal, no windows, no electricity, and no ventilation. The door to the unit was closed and locked with the poor animal inside.

Due to deplorable conditions throughout the rescue, ACOs seized the animals from the rescue facility. A total of 43 dogs, 3 hens, and 1 pig were removed and transported to the Citrus County Animal Shelter.

In addition, Citrus County Fire Rescue’s Hazmat Unit responded to take air quality readings which will be forwarded for case evidence. The firefighter who took the readings attempted to enter without protective gear but had to come back out and put on Tyvek and full breathing gear due to the levels of ammonia in the buildings.

If you suspect animal cruelty, abuse or neglect, please speak up. The best thing you can do is report your suspicions of animal abuse/cruelty to our Non-emergency line at (352)249-2790.

When reporting animal abuse/cruelty, please try to gather as much information as possible, including names of people, the exact address of the animal(s), and a description of the animal(s). Remember, these precious animals cannot speak up for themselves, they need the help of courageous citizens like YOU!

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