Man faces animal cruelty charges after starving and dead cows, calves and donkeys found on farm

HENDRY COUNTY, Fla. -- A Collier County man is charged with 144 counts related to cruelty to animals after investigators found dead and starving animals on his LaBelle farm.

The State Attorney's Office charged Robert David Starkweather with 131 counts of animal cruelty and 13 counts of improper disposal of dead animals.

Investigators with the Hendry County Sheriff's Office found 77 cows, 48 calves, and 2 donkeys found on Starkweather's property after an anonymous tip was called in. Photos taken showed animals as bags of bones.

"That's got to be the most horrific fate, worst way to go," Carey Kendzior said. "These are massive animals and it would take months to let it get to that point of cruelty and neglect. There's no excuse," she added.

Rescuers came too late for some. There were 13 animals found dead upon arrival.

"I don't care who you are. No reason for you to be in charge of animals," Kendzior said.

The Hendry County Sheriff's Office investigated the case with assistance from both the Lee County Sheriff's Office and the Collier County Sheriff's Office. The animals were sized and were taken from the property and moved to another location.

One calf died and five had to be euthanized due to their poor health conditions after being looked at by a veterinarian.

Dr. Laura Braun is a veterinarian in Fort Myers. She was disturbed when she saw the photos.

"That's not how cattle are supposed to look, not even close," Dr. Braun said.

Starkweather will be arraigned on May 17.

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