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Couple arrested on charges of animal cruelty

LAWRENCEVILLE -- Authorities investigating a complaint Wednesday found more than they'd bargained for among the refuse of a Lawrenceville home, police said.

In the trash-strewn garage of a Stone Mill Run residence, police found the bodies of two dogs, a Chihuahua and Shih Tzu, that investigators believe died of starvation and dehydration sometime this week. Police found the remains of two more dogs in the backyard, one in a freshly dug grave, according to a Lawrenceville police report.

Police arrested a couple residing at the home -- Michael Sparks, 43, and Tracey Byrd, 32 -- on two counts of misdemeanor animal cruelty.

Police initially responded to the home with Division of Family and Children Services personnel to investigate a complaint made to officials at a local school.

That investigation was suspended when officials found conditions described as unsanitary. The home was strewn with trash, and the area where the animals' bodies were found was covered in feces, fleas and cockroaches, the report states.

One dog lay atop a pile of clothes, the other behind a clothes dryer. Police found a small bowl of dog food "green with mold" and leftover food on plates covered in cockroaches, the report says.

An animal control officer who examined the dogs told police they'd been dead two or three days, likely due to starvation and dehydration. A necropsy on the bodies is pending.

Byrd's daughter, who resides at the home, was turned over to her aunt, a Buford resident, the report says.

Both Sparks and Byrd remained at the Gwinnett County Jail on $22,400 bond Thursday.