Woman insists 70 seized dogs not neglected

Published May 4, 2007

Alma and Martin Otto's savings were dwindling. They were having trouble paying their taxes and their insurance. So Mrs. Otto, 77, told her husband she wanted to return to an old passion: breeding and selling dogs.

Hillsborough County Animal Services removed 70 of the couple's 125 dogs Wednesday. Mrs. Otto said she struggles with diabetes but can still take care of all the animals, which range from puppies to geriatric dogs.

The dogs receive plenty of love and care, and she knows all of their names, she said. She suspects a competing breeder called authorities Wednesday. "Somebody found out I was going to start breeding again, so they made up some story to get animal control out here, " she said.

But the story investigators found at 1219 S 66th St. in Palm River Wednesday was one of neglect. Marti Ryan, spokeswoman for Hillsborough County Animal Services, said 40 of the 70 dogs rescued from the Ottos' six-acre property had been taken in by the Humane Society and other rescue groups Thursday.

The dogs had been living in cramped, feces-infested quarters and exhibited several medical conditions including dental problems, Ryan said. Many tested positive for heartworm, she said. "It's debatable that there is ample room here, but we are giving them the best care we can, " Ryan said.

Mrs. Otto denies that the dogs were living in filth. She wouldn't let a Times reporter a visit Thursday. She had planned to call Animal Services, she said, because her older dogs weren't selling.

Amanda Palleschi can be reached at apalleschi@sptimes.com or 813 661-2456.