Lehigh Acres man arrested after dog found dead in tiny backyard cage

Reporter: Emma Heaton Writer: Joey Pellegrino
Published: Updated:

The Lee County Sheriff’s Office held a press conference to announce an arrest following an Animal Cruelty Task Force investigation.

Watch below or click here.

According to Lee County Sheriff Carmine Marceno, Lehigh Acres man Jonathan Benitez, 31, was arrested Tuesday morning.

The sheriff did not mince words during the news conference. “A gut-wrenching view of torture and a cruel death for a helpless animal.”

On Tuesday at 11 a.m., Lee County deputies were called to a sad, disturbing scene—an animal cruelty case at a Lehigh Acres home on Brian Avenue North.

“Let me explain how horrible and heartbreaking conditions oreo was found in. Oreo was left alone in a cage for six hours directly in the sun with no access to food or water. His cries for help were unanswered,” said Marceno.

Animal cruelty investigation. (Credit: Lee County Sheriff’s Office)

Marceno said his deputies found Oreo, a 7-month-old, 60-pound English bulldog mix, dead inside a small cage only four inches wider and longer than the pup. So tight, Oreo could hardly move, turn around, or lie down.

“Oreo tried to chew his way out of a metal cage. Oreo was found dead with his teeth still biting the cage, trying to chew out,” Marceno said.

The sheriff said 31-year-old Jonathan Benitez is the man responsible for Oreo’s death. He now faces felony aggravated animal cruelty charges.

The arrest report says his girlfriend’s mother, who lived in the home with Benitez and her daughter, called LCSO to say Oreo was in trouble.

She explained that she couldn’t help the dog because she’s wheelchair-bound. Neighbors, fellow dog owners, and the sheriff are unsettled by Oreo’s death.

“That’s why I keep my dog inside. Because I know it’s hot. You know? I mean, that just like leaving your child in a car. You know, same scenario,” said neighbor Wardell Scott.

“If anyone abuses an animal in this county, we’re coming for them. We’re going to hunt them down, and they’re going to jail. I promise you,” said Marceno.

LCSO posted a Facebook video of deputies arresting Benitez at the home.

If you know of a case of animal cruelty, you can call the Lee County Animal Cruelty Task Force at 239-477-1622 to report it. If you are unsure if the situation is abuse, you can learn more about examples of abuse and neglect by clicking here.

According to the Lee County Animal Cruelty Task Force website:

“April 2020 — Sheriff Carmine Marceno announced an initiative to combat animal abuse in lee county by establishing the Animal Cruelty Task Force, which will continue focusing on educating residents on animal abuse and neglect and enforcing Florida Statute 828.12.

Marceno selected experienced detectives to investigate all misdemeanor and felony animal abuse cases within the county.

Sheriff Marceno has zero tolerance for animal abuse and will seek justice for those who cannot speak for themselves.

The US Humane Society’s website says that a study conducted by the Chicago Police Department from 2001 to 2004 revealed a, ‘Startling propensity for offenders charged with crimes against animals to commit other violent offenses toward human victims.'”

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