TAMPA - Investigators are concerned about the health of anyone who bought puppies from a roadside stand along U.S. Highway 41 in the Ruskin and Apollo Beach areas after rescuing 26 dogs sold by a vendor who kept them in human waste.:mad:
Animal services workers on Wednesday shampooed and scrubbed the dogs, which include nine puppies. They are golden retrievers, shih tzu, basenji, a yorkie and a bichon frise, said Animal services spokeswoman Marti Ryan.
The dogs will be evaluated to determine whether they have contracted any illnesses as a result of their living conditions. Meanwhile, Ryan advised anyone who purchased dogs from the roadside stand to take their animals to a veterinarian if the dog appears ill, and to monitor their own health.
"We don't really know what we're dealing with now. Hopefully, nothing," she said.
The Hillsborough County Sheriff's Office is seeking criminal charges against the vendor. Ryan said she was not sure of the man's identity because he has several aliases.
The dogs were kept at 3197 Willow Road in Wimauma. Animal services cited the vendor's wife, Gloria Gallegos, with citations for improper tags on the dogs, Ryan said.
The agency began an investigation weeks ago after receiving a tip from a woman who said the puppy she bought at the roadside stand had been diagnosed with a viral infection, Ryan said.
At the time of purchase, the vendor gave the woman a health certificate for the dog from a veterinarian, Ryan said. Investigators requested veterinary records for all of the dogs. Ryan didn't know whether the veterinarians who authored the certificates would be investigated.
"Who knows at what point they saw the dogs," she said.
Animal Services investigators were not able to make contact with a person at the Wimauma property until Tuesday, Ryan said. There, they saw the dogs' exercise area overrun with human waste from a burst septic tank.
"There was significant waste, lots and lots of flies," she said.
Investigators rescued the dogs Wednesday from an unventilated box truck that the owner had abandoned in a cow pasture in an attempt to hide them, Ryan said.
"I don't know what they enjoy more: the food, the water or the baths," she said of the dogs after their rescue.