DURHAM, N.C. (WNCN) — Neighbors reacted with disgust Monday after they learned a Durham man is accused of leaving a dog and four puppies behind to die when he was evicted from an apartment.

Markeem Carlton Owens, 32, who used to live at an apartment along Rochelle Street, is facing five counts of felony animal cruelty and other charges.

Officials discovered the dead dogs on Oct. 14 when a Durham County deputy was called to help apartment management enter the padlocked apartment.

Once the door was opened, the deputy reported “a strong odor of decomposition and feces.”

Bri Odom, a neighbor Monday afternoon said, “It disgusts me, honestly.”

Odom said that she’d seen police at the apartment a couple of weeks ago, and didn’t know what was going on at the time – but did notice the appearance of officers going in and out of the apartment.

“They were looking a little disgusted — like they were throwing up or something…like they looked sick in the face,” Odom said.

The adult dog and four puppies were all too badly decomposed for a cause of death to be determined, the sheriff’s office said.

Along with the bodies, moldy food and decaying feces were found through the apartment.

Animal Protection Society of Durham director Shafonda Allen — who is a veteran in the field — was stunned by the case.

Although her agency is not involved she reviewed the details.

“I’ve been at this over 20 years and I don’t think I’ve seen a situation quite as bad as this one,” Allen said.

Odom said Owens had a choice — instead of just leaving the dogs to die.

“You could have dropped them off at the animal shelter if you didn’t want them,” she said.

Allen said animal surrenders have spiked in recent weeks as pandemic eviction moratoriums have expired.

Says her agency is always able to assist with food or take in animals in need

But Allen reminded pet owners: “If you have an animal, you are responsible for them the same as you would for a child.”

Just after the grisly discovery last month, officials tried to find Owens, but were unable to contact him.

The sheriff’s office said an investigating deputy spoke before a Grand Jury who indicted Owens on the animal cruelty charges and 10 other animal-related misdemeanors.

Owens was taken into custody on Monday and given a $10,000 secured bond.

The Durham County Sheriff’s Office said there are resources available to help pet owners facing hardships.

“There is never an excuse to abandon a pet inside a residence. The Animal Protection Society of Durham is here to help,” the sheriff’s office said in a release. “The Animal Protection Society of Durham at the Durham County Animal Shelter is an open-admission shelter. That means that they will take in any domesticated animal in Durham County.”

If you are a Durham County resident and can no longer keep your pet, contact Animal Protection Society of Durham by calling (919) 560-0640.

If you think an animal has been abandoned or is being abused contact the Durham communications center at 919-560-0900 and an Animal Services deputy will respond.

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