ELLWOOD CITY (KDKA) – A police officer was in court Tuesday facing cruelty to animals charges.

Not only was he in court, so were local animal rights advocates.

Eric Squicquero has been suspended from his job as a White Township, Beaver County police officer. He had nothing to say Tuesday morning after he waived his right to a preliminary hearing, which sends his case directly to court.

He’s charged with animal cruelty after Animal Control officers were called to his Ellwood City, Lawrence County home. They found a malnourished Rottweiler. The dog weighed just 57 pounds, which once weighed 100 pounds. They also found a smaller mixed-breed dog dead.

The dog’s food and water bowls were kept where the dogs couldn’t reach them, according to investigators.

Squicquero told investigators he couldn’t care for the dogs because he works 12 hours a day.

“We’ve waived that opportunity and we’re going to deal with the facts of this case in the appropriate forum at the appropriate time,” Defense Attorney Philip Berezniak said.

“We did read where he had said one of the problems was he was working so many hours. I don’t have any comment on the defense at this point. Those facts will come out as this case moves through the courts.”

Animal rights advocates came to the hearing and were disturbed by this case.

“For a police officer to intentionally starve two dogs, or the one has passed and the one was within a breath of life, I think that he’s suspended with no pay and that was justifiable,” Patricia Chenet said.

Animal rights groups said will they will follow this process closely as it moves through the court system.

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