The owner of a guard dog rental business on the Gardena border was arrested Tuesday after authorities found dead and underfed animals on his property, authorities said.

Charles Ferguson, 51, who owns and operates J.R. Ewing Guard Dogs Inc. at 1207 W. El Segundo Blvd., in the unincorporated Athens area, faces three felony and nine misdemeanor animal cruelty counts following an investigation by spcaLA humane officers, said spcaLA spokeswoman Miriam Davenport.

Humane officers began looking into the business following an anonymous tip. The investigators discovered dead dogs and multiple animals that appeared to be malnourished, Davenport said.

The spcaLA worked with the county Department of Animal Care and Control to gather evidence on Ferguson's treatment of dogs.

"The public face of this guard dog rental agency - a large mural depicting Ferguson and several healthy, well-fed dogs - belies the treatment of animals unearthed by spcaLA humane officers," spcaLA President Madeline Bernstein said.

Ferguson was booked at the South Los Angeles sheriff's station. If convicted of the charges, he could face up to 13 1/2 years in prison and up to $240,000 in fines.

- Larry Altman