When Flagler County Sheriff’s deputies arrived at the scene Wednesday in late morning–the Harbor Freight parking lot off Palm Coast Parkway–the puppies were “panting and severely dehydrated,” and one bystander was shuttling puppies with a deputy from the back of a U-Haul truck, where they’d been stored, to a deputy’s patrol car, to cool down the animals with air conditioning.
The animals’ fur was matted, some of them were covered in feces. A deputy described what she saw: “As soon as I stepped in the back of the U-Haul to help get the animals out, I felt as if I was stepping into a sauna and I could smell the odor of feces. I, the owners of the animals and the witness attended to the dogs by placing them in cages outside of the U-Haul, pouring water on them and giving them drinking water. I noticed a gray water bucket with water in [the] U-Haul truck close to the entrance of the U-Haul lift gate but no water in any cages with animals. The cats only had wet food in a gray bowl but none of the rest of the animals did. All animals eventually stopped panting and were hydrated enough [that] they did not appear to be on the verge of passing out anymore. The fire department assisted with cooling off the animals. There were 4 cats and 13 dogs in the back of the U-Haul.”
The animals’ owners are Jason Donellan-Sparks, 29, and Shawna Doud, 23, whose given address is on Kittles Street in Mims, the community just north of Titusville on the Atlantic Coast. They told deputies they’d left Tennessee the night of July 27 with the animals in the back of their U-Haul. They were both arrested on charges of animal cruelty, a misdemeanor. But it took the quick thinking of a passer-by–Anthony Duncan, a retired cop–to detect that the truck’s cargo was in trouble.
“Upon parking in front of Harbor Freight parking lot a U-Haul truck pulled into the lot as well,” Duncan told deputies in a statement. “As I was walking by the truck I heard what I thought were birds chirping, then when the female that was inside the truck opened the lift gate I noticed numerous dogs and puppies all in distress and panting with their tongues all out. The female then started spraying the dogs with water but it was too hot inside the compartment. I told her it is best to get the dogs out and not to leave the scene.”
Donellan-Sparks and Doud had initially parked directly in front of Harbor Freight, in the heat. When Duncan saw the animals in distress, he directed Doud to park the truck in the shade. That day, the high temperature reached 91 in Palm Coast.
A Palm Coast Animal Control officer who investigated said the care for the animals was poor, they were “extremely dehydrated and she believed if they stayed inside the U-Haul truck any longer they would’ve died,” according to the two travelers’ arrest report. Doud was traveling with her son, whose grandmother was to pick him up. Donellan-Sparks’s step-mother was to take possession of the U-Haul and trailer, so the two travelers could be booked at the county jail. The animals were taken to animal control, where a veterinarian checked them out.
“Here is a great example of ‘see something, say something’ and these animals only had minutes to spare,” Sheriff Rick Staly said. “Thank you to the citizen who spoke up and called us. I’m glad the animals are now in the hands of Animal Control and out of the custody of these two who obviously don’t know how to care for them. The Florida heat is dangerous and animals do not belong in vehicles without proper air flow as the result can be deadly. Thank you to all the agencies who came together to rescue the 17 animals from the U-Haul.”