HOUSTON, Texas (KTRK) -- A veterinarian who helped save puppies that were allegedly abused at the hands of a Baytown man says she has seen animals that have been neglected and malnourished before -- but has never seen this kind of abuse.
Justin Belton, 44, is charged with four counts of animal cruelty. He appeared in court on Thursday and his bond remains at $100,000 total -- $25,000 for each charge.
Dr. Gabriela Vega took in the puppies at Sunset 24/7 Animal Hospital on Saturday, June 17.
"Very horrific, super disturbing -- not just for our staff, but also for the police officers that arrived," Dr. Vega recalled.
Dr. Vega was working at Sunset 24/7 Animal Hospital on Saturday morning when six puppies who had been seriously abused were brought in by the suspect.
According to court documents, four of the six puppies had legs or paws that were cut off.
Belton was arrested at the animal hospital.
ABC13 will not get into more of the gruesome details, but investigators say "the puppies were crying in pain." Records state that one puppy was so severely hurt, it had to be euthanized.
Authorities said they found a dead female dog, believed to be the puppies' mother, inside Belton's home on Post Oak Drive and other dogs living in unsanitary conditions.
Sadly, two of the puppies did not survive. But the good news is, the other four are doing well, according to Dr. Vega.
"Some of them may only have three legs, but that's never stopped a dog before, so I expect them to have a pretty good life moving forward," Dr. Vega told ABC13.
Belton had a court appearance scheduled for Tuesday, but he didn't appear because the court couldn't find a defense attorney willing to take the case after reading the disturbing allegations, prosecutors said.
The court wouldn't tell us who the lawyers were that turned down the case, so ABC13 went to defense lawyer Matthew Sharpe to learn why lawyers sometimes say no to clients.
"You have a duty to your client to provide him or her with effective, zealous representation, so if there is something about the case that is going to interfere with your ability to do that, you shouldn't take the case," Sharpe said.
Investigators said Belton's story about what happened to the puppies kept changing. First, he said his neighbor's dog attacked the puppies. Then, he said he left them inside a cage, and when he came home, they were badly hurt.
Court paperwork states, "Belton's stories did not make sense and changed multiple times."
Records state the puppies' injuries did not appear to have been caused by another animal but possibly by a tool.
While Belton doesn't have a record of animal cruelty, officers did note they've had contact with him and that he's "known to be a heavy methamphetamine user."
Belton had a harassment charge dismissed in 2016 and received deferred adjudication on a felony stalking charge in 2012.