MESA, AZ (3TV/CBS 5) - The Maricopa County Sheriff's Office is investigating a report of animal abuse or neglect at a shelter in Mesa.

On Thursday, Oct. 4, deputies were called out to Shelter Paws Sanctuary near Main Street and the Loop 202 Red Mountain. MCSO got the call from a woman who came to pick up her dog and saw the conditions there.

MCSO deputies say they found more than 50 dogs who were extremely malnourished and being kept in confinement with feces present in their crates.

Animal Crimes detectives were then called to the scene to assume the investigation.

A search warrant was served, allowing detectives to closely examine conditions and make a determination about whether to remove the animals or take any other action.

One dog was transported to an emergency veterinarian in extremely poor condition and later died.

Another 52 dogs were transported to the MCSO Animal Safe Haven (MASH) facility in downtown Phoenix for further evaluation and care.

Dominic Anthony Asprella ran the shelter and could face animal abuse charges pending the outcome of the investigation.

A former volunteer at the rescue said Asprella originally had good intentions. 

"I think he got overwhelmed, for sure," said Terri Bonnstetter. 

Bonnstetter said she'd try to sneak food to the animals. 

"I would always come with yummies, food, you name it, and [Asprella] would always say, 'No, no, they can't eat unless I let them out.' Or Whatever." 

Bonnstetter says she even spent around $10,000 of her own money trying to help the shelter, but things didn't change. 

"I hate to say it, but I don't think he should be allowed to have dogs," Bonnstetter said of Asprella. 

The county is now trying to nurse the dogs back to health. 

“I want to first thank the individual who came forward,” said Sheriff Paul Penzone. “These dogs are now in our care and we will ensure they have the opportunity to be brought back to full health. It’s heartbreaking to see animals in this condition, and our investigators will seek charges as appropriate in this case.”

If you'd like to help you can donate online to the MCSO MASH Unit.

Click here for the MASH Unit's Amazon wish list.

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