County rescues 70-plus dogs

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 St. Property records show the home is owned by Martin and Alma Otto, although Animal Services provided only Alma's name.

The dogs rescued Wednesday were those most needing 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 dogs showed signs of cataracts and severe dental problems, were obese or underweight, and living in filthy conditions.

The dogs included chihuahuas, Yorkshire terriers, Boston terriers, Pomeranians, poodles and pit bullterriers. 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.

Dogs could be heard barking from the blocked-off property Wednesday after investigators had rescued the more than 70 dogs. A large bag of dog feces was found under the "No Trespassing" sign at the end of the long driveway.

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.