SEBRING — A man who is a registered sex offender and resides in Highlands County was arrested Thursday for animal cruelty. His two dogs had been starved to the point where their rib bones were prominent, and they were eating acorns to try to survive, according to authorities.

Joseph Reyes, 41, of 3307 Baxter Ave. in Sebring, was arrested by the Highlands County Sheriff’s Office Thursday. Reyes, who is a registered sex offender, was charged with animal cruelty.

Previously, on July 10, 2003, he was charged with lewd and lascivious molestation on a victim between the ages of 12-15 years old. These charges were filed in Okaloosa County.

Authorities were looking for Reyes because he had a warrant from the Sheriff’s Office Sexual Offender & Predator Unit for animal cruelty. His two dogs were starved and their skeletal bones were protruding. According to Det. Luis Ramos, the dogs appeared scared and starved. Ramos had previously encountered Reyes’ dogs and noted that they were friendly and healthy, but their health had greatly deteriorated.

The two dogs were fed and sent to a local veterinarian for treatment before being taken to Animal Services.

Reyes was found working in an orange grove near the Highlands and DeSoto county line, according to a Facebook post from the Sheriff’s Office. The Sexual Offender & Predator Unit worked with three DeSoto County Sheriff’s Office deputies to capture Reyes.

Residents can call 863-402-6730 if they suspect that an animal has been abused. The number can also be used to call in an animal complaint.

“Call us anytime you suspect an animal is abused,” Joe Minshew, animal control officer with Animal Services, said. “We will issue a welfare check and take pictures of the animal.

“We will find out if vaccinations are up to date,” Minshew said. “We don’t give up until we get our hands on the dog [or cat] and physically see the dog. We can also do a welfare check on livestock. We do a full report. We have to go out [if animal abuse is suspected].”


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