Wednesday, May 19, 2010

Tampa Couple Charged After a Dog Starves to Death - by Jennifer Leigh

TAMPA - A couple face animal cruelty charges after investigators say they found two pit bulls – one dead and the other barely alive – in a cage without food and water.

A third dog, an emaciated Chihuahua was wandering the couple's condo, Hillsborough County Animal Services investigators said. Authorities said they found dog food in the garage and "thousands and thousands of dollars" worth of tools and vehicles so feeding the animals shouldn't have been a problem.

"What we found was horrific. One of the worst cases of animal cruelty I've ever seen or been involved with," said Pam Perry, investigative manager for animal services.

Nicholas Kayne Aguilar, 26, and Ann Marie Whitmore, 19, both of 6034 Gibson Ave., were charged with three counts each of animal cruelty and confining an animal without food and water, sheriff's records show.

Aguilar, who worked for a pool company, was being held Wednesday at county jail with bail set at $7,500. Whitmore, a University of South Florida student who worked at the front door of a Tampa strip club, was released on $7,500 bail.

Investigators say they went to the condo off 56th Street about 6 p.m. Tuesday after receiving a tip of possible animal cruelty. They found the two pit bulls in a wire cage in an unventilated garage.

The dead dog "died a horrible, suffering death," Perry said. An animal services veterinarian said the dog hadn't eaten in 72 hours before her death, and she had been dead for at least a day.

The surviving dogs, the pit bull named Diamond and the Chihuahua named Zoe will be nursed back to health by the county and placed up for adoption, perhaps in four to six weeks.

Animal services may seek a civil court order that would ban Aguilar and Whitmore from owning any other animals in Hillsborough County, authorities said.

"They watched these dogs waste away in front of them and did nothing, and there's no excuse for that. There's no excuse for that. We are going to go after these people with everything our department has, including the state attorney's office. This is not a case that we're going to let go lightly," Perry said.

Aguilar had a criminal history that includes a grand theft charge, authorities said. Whitmore had no criminal record.

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