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Couple arrested for animal cruelty said they can't afford dog food

Two Tampa residents facing criminal charges of animal cruelty say that their pet dog was underweight because they could not afford dog food, according to media reports. Besides the animal cruelty charges, authorities have also charged the couple with unlawful confinement of an animal and unlawful disposal of dead animals. The case appears to illustrate how well-intentioned pet owners can get into trouble if authorities determine their pets are not cared for up to state standards.

Acting on an anonymous tip, police in Tampa went to the suspects' house earlier in February. They searched the house and found a dog underneath the house estimated to be 3 years old. The dog, a pit bull and Labrador mix, was underweight had fleas on her body. They also found the bodies of two deceased dogs beneath the house. It is unclear whether the officers had a search warrant or if the suspects consented to the search.

The suspects told the officers that they fed the dog leftovers because they could not afford dog food for her. Police left the home, but returned on Feb. 4 and arrested the woman, 48, and the man, 45, living there. Their relationship is not mentioned in a Tampa Bay Times article about the arrests.

The dog was taken to animal services for treatment.

In Florida, cruelty to animals is a first degree misdemeanor. A conviction could mean a jail sentence of up to one year and a fine of up to $5,000. Given the seriousness of the charge, anyone accused of animal cruelty should consult a criminal defense attorney to examine their case and weight their legal options.

Source: Tampa Bay Times, "Tampa dog owners arrested on animal cruelty charges," Laura C. Morel, Feb. 6, 2013

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