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Saturday, Oct 22, 2016

Dozens of animals, including alligator, seized at Clearwater home

CLEARWATER - What started out as a complaint about cockfighting led to the discovery of an exotic menagerie this morning, with authorities finding a pig, 22 fowl, 21 turtles who were living in a swimming pool, and an alligator in a cage. As it turned out, the animals were essentially being used for food, said Elizabeth Watts, Clearwater's public safety spokeswoman. It was the discovery of the alligator that prompted Clearwater police to contact the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission, said Watts. Authorities arrived at 2606 Brewton Court just after 9 a.m. today.
Prosecutors are expected to decide whether to charge the owners of the home with animal abuse and possession of an American alligator, both misdemeanors, Watts said. The owners were identified as Victor Vu, 47, and Julie Vu, 43. There were also several city ordinance violations touching on the possession of birds and wild animals. Of the 22 birds, there were chickens, roosters and pheasant. Of the 21 turtles, some were soft shell turtles and some were snapping turtles. The animals were not in good health, and their living conditions were less than ideal, Watts said. They didn't have enough food or water, their cages were too small, and their environs were not clean, she said. Baryl Martin, a spokesman for the commission, said a lieutenant and two officers with the agency were on hand to help secure the American alligator and identify the various turtle species. The reptiles would likely be housed temporarily at a facility overseen by local wildlife expert Vernon Yates.