CONYERS, Ga. -- What began as a young boy searching for his missing dog ended up uncovering a "horrific" case animal cruelty in Rockdale County last month.

The incident was first reported on May 25th off of Nantucket Way. Neighbor Lita Boyd and her husband were helping a boy down the street look for his missing dog. When they walked into the woods behind their house she says what they saw was something hard to describe.

"There were 20 dogs with all of their bones showing. They looked seriously abused, lying in their own feces and infested with fleas and ticks," said Boyd.

The couple quickly took the boy home and called animal control and the Sheriff’s Department.

Sheriff's deputies located the owner of the dogs, Robert Thomas. His house backs up to those woods.

According to the incident report Thomas told them “dog food had become too expensive so he was feeding them deer meat, but they just were not gaining weight.”

Thomas was arrested and charged with multiple counts of animal cruelty.

Animal control officers removed the dogs. Two had to be euthanized because of the severity of their conditions. Five are being housed at Rockdale Animal control and the others were transported to the rescue group Paws Atlanta in Decatur.

Lita and her husband are keeping tabs on all of the surviving dogs, hoping they will eventually go to loving homes.

"They just want to be loved. There was not an aggressive dog back there. They just wanted someone to pet them and feed them and love them," said Boyd.

Thomas bonded out of jail. 11Alive's Duffie Dixon went to his home and asked him if he would comment. He declined, saying he was following his attorney's advice.