70-plus dogs taken from home

A couple may have had more than 100 dogs on their property.

Published May 3, 2007

PALM RIVER - Hillsborough County animal services removed more than 70 sick and filthy dogs from an elderly couple's home Wednesday.

The couple may have had as many as 100 dogs on the property, breeding them without a permit, said animal services spokeswoman Marti Ryan.

They kept the dogs outside their Clair-Mel home at 1219 S. 66th Street. Property records show the home is owned by Martin and Alma Otto, although Animal Services only provided Alma's name.

The dogs rescued Wednesday were those most in need of medical attention, Ryan said.

"I don't think this is a case of malicious intent, but these are very neglected animals, " she said.

She said several of the dogs showed signs of cataracts and severe dental problems, were obese or underweight, and were living in filthy conditions.

The couple's dogs included long and short-haired Chihuahuas, Yorkshire terriers and Pomeranians. They range from puppies to geriatric dogs.

Ryan said there are no charges pending against the couple, who cooperated with investigators.

"The situation is fragile because they are elderly and not in the best health themselves, " Ryan said. "They don't even know how many dogs they have."

Animal services received an anonymous complaint about the Otto's dogs earlier this week, Ryan said. Many nearby residents said they did not know the couple, but they saw their dogs in the neighborhood frequently.

"They keep to themselves but their dogs are around all the time, " said Iris Denmark, 77, who lives across the street from the Otto's property.

Dogs could be heard barking from the blocked-off property Wednesday after investigators had rescued the dogs.

Ryan said there are no plans to euthanize the dogs, but they are not up for adoption.

"We have to seek out what's best for the animals' welfare first, " she said.

Times staff writer Kevin Graham contributed to this report. Amanda Palleschi can be reached at apalleschi@sptimes.com or (813) 661-2457.