Tardy former dog owner hears judge's ire at arraignment
TAMPA - The former owner of Mr. Snuggles, a dog found locked inside a car in a parking lot, missed her arraignment this morning and a warrant was issued for her arrest. The warrant was rescinded when Amy Chantarak showed up an hour late, but she did get a withering scolding by the judge, who told her of the warrant and that the deputies in court could drag her off to jail. "This is not show up when you choose," said Hillsborough County Judge Cheryl K. Thomas. "It's show up when you are ordered to or you will be arrested." The judge withdrew the bench warrant and Chantarak pleaded innocent to the single charge of animal cruelty.Chantarak, 19, was arrested in May after police found Mr. Snuggles locked inside her car in the parking lot of the Ikea furniture store on Adamo Drive east of downtown Tampa. It was opening day, and thousands of people lined up to be among the first into the new store. Chantarak was charged with animal cruelty in the Ikea incident. The charge is a first-degree misdemeanor and carries a maximum sentence of a year in the county jail. She was scheduled to appear for her arraignment at 8 a.m. and her case was called just before 9 a.m. When she didn't answer, the judge issued a failure-to-appear warrant for her arrest. The warrant carried a $5,000 bail amount. Chantarak eventually arrived and was strongly rebuked by Thomas, who withdrew the warrant, appointed an assistant public defender and set a new court date of July 27. The case was the second time the University of South Florida student had been charged with leaving an animal in a hot car. It was also the second case in which she had trouble arriving for her arraignment. Chantarak was cited in Pinellas County with animal cruelty in December 2007 after leaving a Chihuahua in her car overnight, authorities said. She missed the court hearing there and later told investigators the dog was run over. That case is pending. "She has history of disregarding her responsibility to society," said Dennis McCullough, chief investigator with Hillsborough County Animal Services. Mr. Snuggles was taken by Hillsborough County Animal Services officers and was adopted out to a new home after Chantarak surrendered ownership last month. His new owners renamed the pooch Teddy. "The dog is doing well in its new home," McCullough said. "He was terrific when he was here, very social." The agency said it was swamped with requests to take the dog after Chantarak's arrest.
Reporter Keith Morelli can be reached at (813) 259-7760.