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      Malnourished dogs to recover; cruelty suspect likely to avoid jail

      Sasha was seized by the Animal Control Center after they say she weighed about half as much as she's supposed to when seized by officers.

      CONWAY (WACH, WPDE) -- Two severely malnourished dogs seized from a Horry County home two weeks ago are recovering, and the man charged with abusing them rejected responsibility during a court hearing Wednesday afternoon.

      Sasha, a yellow lab, and Butch, a pit bull mix, were brought to the county animal shelter together. Each dog was approximately 25 pounds underweight, according to the shelter. Both dogs are now gaining weight and should be available for adoption within several months.

      Cleveland Fladger Jr., of Conway, requested a jury trial on a misdemeanor animal cruelty charge Wednesday and claimed animal control officers trespassed on his property. The judge quickly denounced that claim, citing the poor condition of the dogs when officers found them.

      If convicted, Fladger is likely to pay a fine but not serve any jail time. Horry County animal control officer Misty Alessi says if Fladger is fined and does not pay, the animal care center would likely ask the court to sentence him to 30 days in jail. However; now that Fladger has requested a jury trial "some things may change."

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      "Sasha was at death's door," said Horry County Animal Care Operations Manager Kelly Bonome. She attended court Wednesday to testify against Fladger, but will now have to wait until a jury can hear Fladger's case.

      "We understand it's his right to due process," says Bonome. "The only thing that will change now is the restitution amount he will have to pay to the center."

      Right now, the center has paid more than $650 in care for Sasha and Butch.

      "It's going to cost five dollars a day plus any other fees that come along, like the heart worm treatment we'll be starting for them in a few weeks."

      Bonome says Sasha and Butch are both recovering well. Sasha has gained ten pounds since arriving to the shelter and now weighs 36 pounds.

      "You wouldn't recognize Sasha from before. Sometimes I have to remind myself just how bad this case is by looking at the pictures from when I saw her for the first time," Bonome said.

      Butch, deemed too aggressive for our cameras to see at first, is now more playful with care center workers. "He's a total 180 from last time. He's jumping up, wagging his tail. He's doing great."

      Sasha and Butch will have to stay in the custody of the animal care center until Fladger's case is resolved.

      Alessi says if two other dogs remaining in Fladger's custody now are in worse shape by the time a trial is set, he could face more charges.

      What do you think about South Carolina's animal cruelty laws? Vote in our daily web poll below and leave a comment to weigh in.

      (WPDE and contributed to this report.)