Investigators looking into unsheltered dogs on Wimauma property
With freezing temperatures and possibly sleet expected Saturday, the fate of a pack of unsheltered basenjis running loose on a fenced pasture in Wimauma remains murky. Hillsborough County Animal Services investigators were at the site on Chert Rock Trail this morning but were mum on the reason. The pasture is home to as many as 50 basenjis that roam the five acres behind a chain-link fence. There is little or no shelter on the property, authorities and neighbors said. Animal Services spokeswoman Marti Ryan said investigators were at the property this morning but wouldn't say why. They left without seizing any dogs, she said. "They are conducting their investigation," she said, "and it wouldn't be prudent for every detail to be revealed to media, not at this time."Steve Carroll, whose home is adjacent to the pasture, said investigators told him today they were gathering evidence and hoping to obtain a warrant to go onto the tract and collect the dogs. That could happen as soon as Friday, Carroll said he was told. "The ball is rolling," he said. He said the dogs' owner, who lives in St. Petersburg, showed up Wednesday night to feed the animals. "There is food out there," Carroll said. "Right at dark last night, he came here for a few minutes." On Wednesday afternoon, authorities in Pinellas County seized seven puppies and five dogs from the St. Petersburg home of James E. Holland Jr., identified as the owner of the basenji pack that shares the Wimauma pasture with about a half-dozen head of cattle. Holland has not been charged with a crime. The dogs in Wimauma for the most part appear healthy, Ryan said. An investigator went to the pasture Monday, counted the dogs and assessed their health. He left a notice for the owner to get in touch with the agency. She said the investigation is continuing. She said the dogs seemed to be able to weather the freezing temperatures that have recently blanketed the region, even though there is no real shelter.
Reporter Keith Morelli can be reached at (813) 259-7760.