Robert Schweickert

Robert Schweickert

The controversial owner of Out of the Box Animal Rescue in Floral City received more time for his lawyers to prepare his case as he faces two felony aggravated animal cruelty charges and 25 misdemeanor cruelty to animal charges against him. 

Citrus County Sheriff’s Office deputies charged Robert Allan Schweickert Jr., 56, of Dunnellon, in January after deputies reported that he did not comply with a court order to allow county officials to inspect his facility and fix animal care problems.

Initially, the arresting deputy reported that most of the rescue facility at 7007 S. Florida Ave., Floral City, was an open-air facility and that there was a strong smell of feces and urine at the location. The arresting deputy also noted some animals did not appear to have the county’s mandated minimum area of open space.

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On Thursday, Citrus County Circuit Judge Richard Howard gave Schweickert lawyer Sean Colon of Clearwater a continuance for June 24 and report his progress in the case. Colon told Howard he had only just now received discovery evidence from prosecutors.  

In February, Citrus County Judge Bruce Carney ordered Schweickert to hand over any remaining animals he still had and granted the Citrus County officials possession of the animals they seized. The judge said Scheickert was unable and unfit to care for animals.

In the civil case by the county against Schweickert, the Citrus County Sheriff’s Office animal control unit supervisor testified that dogs at Schweickert’s rescue center had no water, food, and had eaten the drywall and insulation out of the walls.

A sheriff’s office animal control officer testified that some dogs kept indoors had no lights, no power, and no ventilation.

The county’s animal services chief veterinarian testified that 20 dogs were underweight, 10 dogs were emaciated, and two dogs suffered from painful infected wounds caused by shocking bark collars, two dogs suffered from painful, untreated ear infections, 18 dogs had heartworms which is life threatening if not treated, one dog needed hospitalization, dozens of dogs had dirty hair coats, feces in their fur, and smelled bad because of inappropriate care.

The veterinarian also testified 13 dogs had orthopedic disease, nine were dehydrated and needed IV fluid, and eight dogs had viral and bacterial upper respiratory ailments because of their living conditions and poor air quality.

In the county’s request of Carney, the county described horrific scenes at Out of the Box including cage floors soaked in urine and feces and cages far too small for the animals.

One dog was ordered by the court to be euthanized because the animal was beyond help.

Schweickert has appealed the Carney decision.

Contact Chronicle reporter Fred Hiers at fred.hiers@chronicleonline.com or 352-397-5914.