ERIE, Pa. - A man faces a dozen charges in an animal cruelty case in the City of Erie. The case dates back to last year...

Robert E. Heath, 34, of Erie, was arraigned Tuesday before District Judge Paul Urbaniak. Heath is charged with four felony counts of aggravated cruelty to animals in the death of one dog and the starvation of another. He also faces eight misdemeanor charges

The dog that survived is "Gunner," who first arrived at the Humane Society of Northwestern Pa. on Dec. 21. The black lab mix weighted just 26 pounds... About half of what he should weigh. Another dog, named "Rhino," a pitbull mix, was just 17.8lbs. when Heath dropped him off at the Humane Society, according to executive director Nicole Bawol.

Today, Gunner's health is improving. He now weighs about 28lbs., Humane Society investigating officer Lisa Stiles said Tuesday.

But Gunner faces a long road to recovery, Stiles said.

Gunner is on a strict diet right now.

"Because of how malnourished and dehydrated his poor body is, we have to work very slowly with him so his organs and such don't fail," Bawol said.

The charges in this case are steeper than those of similar cases in years' past because of the animal rights act "Libre's Law" that Governor Wolf signed last year.

"It now enables more egregious acts of animal cruelty to be charged as felonies as previously they were charged with misdemeanors, so this is a huge step in prosecuting animal cruelty cases," Stiles said.

Heath could face up to 28 years in prison on those felony counts alone, Stiles said. He remains in the Erie County Jail tonight on $5,000 bail.

His preliminary hearing is scheduled Jan. 26 at 3 p.m.

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