'Bone-chilling': Florida man stuffs dog into trash bag, flings it in dumpster after owners die, sheriff says

Employees of a Family Dollar in Southwest Florida were alarmed when they found something moving inside a trash bag in a dumpster outside the store. When they opened the black trash bag, they found a 16-year-old dog named Xyla with a rope tied around her neck. 

The employees recognized the "intentional abuse" and took the Shih Tzu to Blue Pearl Pet Hospital to be evaluated, Sheriff Carmine Marceno said in a press conference on Monday. The sheriff's office began investigating immediately, which ultimately led to the arrest of Anthony Bellman, a 55-year-old man from Lehigh Acres. 


Photo: Lee County Sheriff's Office

Detectives obtained "bone-chilling" surveillance video of the incident behind the Family Dollar store, which allegedly shows Bellman grabbing a black trash bag from the trunk of his blue SUV and flinging it into a dumpster. 

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Photo: Lee County Sheriff's Office

"You can see on this video that he has absolute zero regard for Xyla," Sheriff Marceno said. "No living thing deserves to be discarded like common trash. The suspect literally throwing a life away. This video is disgusting, and my detectives went full-force to find who would do this."


Photo: Lee County Sheriff's Office

It was discovered that Xyla was microchipped and her owners were dead, Sheriff Marceno said. It was also revealed that Bellman, a family member of the two original owners that are deceased, was reportedly on his way to the Humane Society so Xyla could be put down. 

"Instead, he tried to throw her away in a dumpster where she could have slowly suffocated to death or died of heat stroke," Sheriff Marceno said. 

Xyla, who is "blind to a certain extent," was evaluated at the Blue Pearl Pet Hospital, and vets said she "was on her way to a painful death" if she hadn't been discovered," the sheriff said. 

"Her last moments would have been like drowning from the inside out," he added. 

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Photo: Lee County Sheriff's Office

Now, however, Xyla is "healthy and happy" and has a second chance at life. Lee County Domestic Animal Services plans to work with the State Attorney's Office to see if Xyla finds a loving home. 

"Man, they're heroes. They really are," Sheriff Marceno said of the staff at the animal hospital. 

As for Bellman, he was taken into custody and charged with felony aggravated animal cruelty. He also earned himself a spot on the newly enacted Lee County Animal Abuser Registry


Photo: Lee County Sheriff's Office

"Instead of landing in a dumpster where he belongs, Bellman landed in jail," Sheriff Marceno said. "The message is clear: You abuse an animal in Lee County, Florida, and I promise you, we will hunt you down and no matter where you go, we're gonna find you and you're coming back to be fully charged to the fullest extent of the law."

Bellman was released later on Friday after posting $50,000 bond.