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Police investigating possible dog neglect, starvation case

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Police say a possible case of animal abuse left a dog starving and neglected. Now, they're looking for whomever's responsible.

An employee at Gilmer Park Animal Clinic found the dog Tuesday morning in North Liberty on Madison Road, about a mile away from Redwood Road. The dog was severely malnourished and near death. Her ribs were visible. The dog was also covered in fleas and suffering from heartworm as well.

"This dog was so far gone, I don't think she would have made it the day," explains Melody Heintzelman, who runs the South Bend Lost and Found Pets Facebook page.

Heintzelman set up a fundraiser for the dog's medical bills at Gilmer Park Animal Clinic, where the dog is now recovering.

Shocking photos reveal just how close the dog came to death.

Even Det. David Wagnerowski, the animal cruelty investigator for St. Joseph County Police, says he could barely believe what he saw.

"I have never, in my career of 19 and a half years, seen a dog in this shape," Wagnerowski says.

Wagnerowski says he has a few people of interest in this case so far, as it's clear this dog was without food or water for quite some time.

Heintzelman says she immediately got to work to raise funds.

"Once I picked my mouth up and held back the tears," Heintzelman says. "It's just horrible. What she's been through, it's just horrible."

The donations poured in.

In just one day, the community raised thousands of dollars to nurse the dog back to health. So much, in fact, the Gilmer Park Animal Clinic had to turn money away.

As the dog heals, police will be working on her behalf. The Humane Society of St. Joseph County as well as County Police are now looking into the case.

"I'm an animal lover, this is one I want to see through," Wagnerowski says, "and if prosecution is there, that's my goal."

The animal clinic has named the dog Hope.

An 18-year-old woman living in Fowler, Ind., tells WSBT 22's Annie Chang she was the dog's original owner. She raised the dog, but then moved out of her mother's home and was forced to leave the dog. She believes her mother is to blame for neglecting the dog. WSBT 22 is not naming the individual so as not to hinder the investigation.

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