Mesa shelter owner facing 117 animal cruelty charges; 52 dogs seized, 5 didn't survive

PHOENIX (FOX 10) -- The former owner of Shelter Paws in Mesa is facing 117 counts of animal cruelty, stems from an incident in October 2018, when MCSO seized 52 dogs from the shelter. Five of them did not survive.

On Thursday, Maricopa County Sheriff Paul Penzone called this case one of the worst animal cruelty cases he's ever seen.

"This is absolutely up there as far as one of the most egregious cases," said Sheriff Penzone, who also shared stories of survival and introduced Sandy and Amari, two of the 52 dogs rescued.

"They were living in their own feces and urine, and there was a considerable amount of food if I recall correctly at the facility, but it was not being distributed on a regular basis to the animals," said Sheriff Penzone.

Sandy weighed 27 lbs when she was seized, and is now 53. Amari was found weighing 45 pounds, and is now 107. Both are successful before and after transformations from the terrible condition they were in months ago.

"They got into this condition because they were abused by humans, or in this case, one particular person who had neglected them," said Sheriff Penzone.

According to Sheriff Penzone, Domenic Asprella claimed to save dozens of dogs from being euthanized, only to keep them in a shelter, malnourished and neglected. According to MCSO officials, Asprella's bank records show donors deposited a total of more than $23,000 into his account from June to October of 2018. Asprella is being charged with fraudulent schemes, in addition to the numerous counts of animal cruelty.

As for the dogs, two of the 47 surviving dogs are back with their owners, and the rest are in the MASH unit, where inmates can care for the dogs and help train them.

"Once the case is adjudicated, we can get some of these dogs into homes of families who can give them the love and care that they're deserving of," said Sheriff Penzone.

MCSO officials say they are planning to build a brand new facility to replace the current MASH unit, and they are taking private donations. According to Sheriff Penzone, Petsmart has donated $2 million to the project.