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State: Pet seizures went too far

The Humane Society took 22 animals from an Oldsmar pet store.

By TAMARA EL-KHOURY
Published March 23, 2007


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The Humane Society of Pinellas County overstepped its jurisdiction this month when it confiscated exotic birds from a pet store at the Oldsmar Flea Market, according to the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission.

"There were no violations that we could see that had anything to do with their confiscation," said FWC spokesman Gary Morse. "We had nothing to do with it."

Two weeks ago, citing concerns with overcrowded conditions, the Humane Society seized 22 animals from Robert Liu's pet store, which he has operated at the Oldsmar Flea Market for more than 10 years.

The Humane Society's representatives cited a state law that allows such groups to intervene in the case of neglect or cruelty to animals. They took three pigeons, six rabbits, four guinea pigs, eight exotic birds and a rooster. Of the animals, only exotic birds are regulated by the FWC.

Most of the animals were returned Saturday to Liu, 43, of Zephyrhills, but Liu said only one rabbit was returned to him.

Barbara Snow, the Humane Society's executive director, could not be reached Thursday. Humane Society board member Jack Geller said he will ask Snow to respond to the FWC's claim but said she is out of town.

Liu said he has hired an attorney but is waiting to determine the condition of his birds, which include macaws and African grays, before taking legal action. He is keeping them quarantined for two weeks to a month to make sure they are healthy before he sells them. He said the Humane Society took $15,000 to $20,000 worth in pets, has ruined his name and has damaged his business.

He said the exotic birds were returned covered in feces. He said the rooster had a ripped toenail that had to be cut off and treated.

"Apparently they don't even know how to take care of roosters over there," Liu said. "They are good for dogs and cats."

After seizing the animals two weeks ago, Snow said three rabbits had died and the others were sick and being treated by a veterinarian. She said a necropsy is being performed to determine the cause of death.

Snow said at the time that the organization received several complaints about the conditions of Liu's animals. Representatives visited the store March 3 and everything seemed fine, Snow said. After another complaint, Snow said Humane Society representatives returned the next day to find the pets so crowded in cages they couldn't move around or be comfortable.

The birds were caged properly, Morse said, but Liu was cited for not having current permits for sale of nonnative wildlife, the exotic birds.

Liu has since complied with all permitting requirements, Morse said. The FWC had no prior knowledge that the birds were going to be confiscated and said that the Humane Society's jurisdiction does not extend to wildlife, Morse said.

Tamara El-Khoury can be reached at 727 445-4181 or tel-khoury@sptimes.com.

[Last modified March 23, 2007, 06:48:10]


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