RUSKIN, Fla. (FOX 13) - A woman in Ruskin was caught apparently leaving almost a dozen animals on the side of the road.
Neighbors say they were able to track her down and turn her name over to authorities. Now, they hope this story serves as a warning for others: Crimes against animals come with serious consequences.
Workers at the C.A.R.E. animal shelter say the woman first showed up, hoping to leave her animals with them but because there was no room, she was redirected to another shelter.
"We always get a sense when they're going to go to one of those shelters, or they're going to either go up to the woods or go down the road and let the animals out," Penny Smith, with C.A.R.E. said.
And that's exactly what she's accused of doing. Eight cats and one dog were dumped on the side of a road, left to fend for themselves.
"It's really cruelty to think they will survive out there. They won't,” Smith said. "Animals are defenseless and to do this to as many animals as she did is very, very sad."
Security footage captured someone matching the woman’s description dumping the animals and driving off.
C.A.R.E. posted the photos of the woman on Facebook and it wasn't long before an enraged community jumped to the animals' defense. They helped identify a suspect and told local officials.
"She's confessed to it, she's admitted to it, and she said she did not know it was illegal to abandon the animals and she had since tried to go back and pick some of them up," said Hillsborough County Animal Control Officer Rodger Mills.
But it's an apology that comes a little too late. Charges are adding up with each animal that is found.
"She's looking at misdemeanor charges because all the animals appear to be healthy, so far we've recovered five," Miller said. "It could be anything from probation, to a fine, to jail time."
It will be a stiff punishment for a crime that could have been avoided.
"There's always another shelter, another rescue, there's hundreds of rescues. There's family, there's friends, someone is going to take those animals,” Smith said.
County officials say the dog and two of the cats are still missing. Once they're found, they'll be put up for adoption.