Anthony Matthew Ward, 23, appeared for the first time in court Thursday and is being held with no bond pending a mental health evaluation.
FORT WALTON BEACH — A Hurlburt Field airman charged with mistreating two dogs in his care has been jailed on animal cruelty charges, including a felony count of aggravated animal abuse.
Anthony Matthew Ward, 23, appeared for the first time in court Thursday and is being held with no bond pending a mental health evaluation, according to Bill Bishop, the chief assistant state attorney for Okaloosa County.
The State Attorney’s Office filed one charge of felony cruelty to animals and one charge of misdemeanor cruelty to animals against Ward on behalf of Okaloosa County’s Panhandle Animal Welfare Society, according to Bishop.
PAWS first began investigating Ward in July when an emergency veterinary clinic reported having to euthanize a badly malnourished dog, according to PAWS investigator Andrea David. Ward resided on Central Avenue in Fort Walton Beach at that time.
The deceased dog, a pit bull named Hercules, belonged to a roommate of Ward’s. Ward had agreed to take care of Hercules while the roommate was away on a deployment, David said.
PAWS received a second call about a badly treated canine in Ward’s care two days after the first dog’s death, David said.
A woman who had given Ward a puppy in February went to check on the animal’s health and found it so malnourished it couldn’t stand, David said.
The second dog, a shepherd-pit bull mix named Roscoe, was 8 months old and weighed 27 pounds when he was rescued by PAWS, David said. He presently weighs 60 pounds.
"He’s very, very healthy. You can’t even tell that dog was starved," David said.
Roscoe has been returned to the home of the family that originally presented him as a puppy to Ward.
David said she spent three months investigating the case before bringing it to the State Attorney’s Office so that she could present a strong case for charges.
"I know it’s a big relief for the person who lost their dog," she said. "I’m glad I can be a voice for these two dogs."
If convicted Ward could face up to five years in prison on the felony animal cruelty charge and up to an additional year on the misdemeanor charge, Bishop said.