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Florida man threw 16-year-old dog in dumpster after pet's owners died, police say

A man was arrested on Monday for dumping his neighbors' 16-year-old Shih Tzu in a dumpster, police said. 

Anthony Bellman, 55, was charged with aggravated animal cruelty, Lee County Sheriff Carmine Marceno announced at a press conference

Employees of a Family Dollar in Lehigh Acres, Florida, discovered a moving trash bag inside the dumpster on Dec. 14, police said. 

Lee County Sheriff's Office

Inside the bag was a Shih Tzu named Xyla with a rope around her neck, according to police.

The employees helped rush Xyla to a local pet hospital to be evaluated and also called police to report "intentional abuse," police said. 

Detectives and officials from the county's Animal Cruelty Task Force quickly responded and found surveillance footage that showed Bellman taking a black trash bag out of his trunk and carelessly tossing it from several feet away into the dumpster before driving off. 

"This sickens me," Marceno said as he played the clip for reporters. 

"You can see in this video that he has zero regard for Xyla," he added. "No living thing deserves to be discarded like common trash."

Marceno said the video led his detectives to go "full force" to find the suspect. 

During the investigation, detectives learned that Xyla was micro-chipped — but it turned out her original owners had died.

Detectives tracked the vehicle driven by the suspect to a nearby residence. When detectives knocked on the door, Bellman appeared wearing the same clothing as the suspect in the footage. He was taken in for questioning, police said. 

Detectives learned that Bellman told his family he was taking Xyla to the Humane Society to be put down.

Bellman was arrested. If he's convicted, Bellman will be listed on the county's Animal Abuse registry, police said. 

"Hospital examinations determined that Xyla was on her way to a painful death," Marceno said. "If she had not been discovered, her last moments would have been like drowning from the inside out." 

Xyla is still recovering, and officials from  Lee County Domestic Animal Services are working with the State Attorney's office to find her a loving home. 

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