Make us your home page
Instagram

Today’s top headlines delivered to you daily.

(View our Privacy Policy)

'Animal Judge' Nick Nazaretian gets a new gig in Tampa

The burly blond judge is on break from his docket in Animal Court, the last he will preside over. He is thumbing through a scrapbook of dogs — years and years of dogs.

Labs and boxers and interesting mixes, a one-eyed chihuahua, dogs whose scars healed, dogs found terribly skinny that thrived with decent care — all cases that passed through his court.

Smiley is a favorite. Rescued from neglect, Smiley was named at the Animal Services shelter the way a large man might be called Tiny, since an encounter with a car left him open-mouthed with only a few teeth. There is hope for a good home for Smiley one day.

Hillsborough County-turned-Circuit Judge Nick Nazaretian (rhymes with samaritan) helped create this court for noncriminal animal cases — dogs loose, aggressive dogs, dogs without shots or tags, pets neglected. Owner Court might be a better name.

He's seen cat hoarders and cock fighters, pythons and parrots. His courtroom was once the backdrop for a cable reality series called Pet Court.

Here Nazaretian told a young woman who left her dog, Mr. Snuggles, in a sweltering car at Ikea, "What piece of furniture is worth your dog's life?" He asked the owner of Mittens, a cat shot with a BB gun and tossed in the bay in a carrier that said kitty penitentiary, "What kind of person does that?"

It's all here: human meanness, weakness, good intention against a bad economy. Hundreds of times he's signed injunctions saying people cannot own pets, and more than that he's given counsel on how to be better. His refrain: "You love your animal? Show me."

His main assignment was domestic violence court, but he loved this, even if the pictures make him go home and remind his brood of Australian shepherds how lucky they are. Recently, he won an appointment to the circuit bench and is in family law, divorce court, or as they say in the courthouse, Where Love Goes to Die. (It's a promotion. Really.) Another judge picks up what he started.

His last day, Nazaretian offers a man with two randy chihuahuas a deal: Bring proof you got them fixed and I'll waive $800 in fees. "Yes, sir!" he says.

A neighbor brings in photo evidence via home security camera of the dog next door repeatedly doing his business by the man's front walk. "A CSI case," the judge says.

And a miracle: A woman whose dog was attacked says the owners of the other dog apologized and paid all the vet bills. In the courtroom, everyone shakes hands. The judge beams.

He winces at a dog called Ripper, or Kilo, Killer, Scarface, or Ganster, and the potential for self-fulfilling prophecy. He'll suggest a gradual way to change a dog's name, if anyone's interested. (Trooper, maybe?)

Animal Services investigators (who do not always agree with his rulings) say he has done a remarkable thing: Their cases used to be heard by a hearing officer in a sad old mall, but here is a judge who does not tolerate attitude or let them be dismissed as dog catchers.

Docket done, everyone gathers, including a handful in Animal Services shirts. He makes a speech about how underfunded they are and, a little teary, how he could not handle what they have to do. "I know the job you do," the judge says. He is way beyond teary now, but maybe it's because they have brought out the cake, and the frosting is printed with Smiley's face.

'Animal Judge' Nick Nazaretian gets a new gig in Tampa 06/21/12 [Last modified: Friday, June 22, 2012 2:09am]
Photo reprints | Article reprints

© 2017 Tampa Bay Times

    

Join the discussion: Click to view comments, add yours

Loading...
  1. Estimated 5,000 people marvel at MOSI over solar eclipse

    Human Interest

    Packing pinhole cereal box viewers, cardboard glasses and curiosity, solar gawkers gathered outside Tampa's Museum of Science and Industry on Monday for a show that required no ticket.

    At center, Sophia Butter, 8, and Kristina Butera, both of Valrico, watch the sun through eclipse viewing glasses during a solar eclipse party Monday at the Museum of Science and Industry in Tampa. MOSI will reopen after renovations on November 18. [MONICA HERNDON   |   Times]
  2. Florida State sees plenty of upside in Dade City native Jacob Pugh

    College

    TALLAHASSEE — No, Florida State senior Jacob Pugh is not as versatile as teammate Derwin James.

     Florida State Seminoles linebacker Jacob Pugh (16) and Florida State Seminoles defensive end DeMarcus Walker (44) celebrate after sacking the Miami quarterback Saturday October 8, 2016 at Hard Rock Stadium in Miami Gardens.
  3. Tampa officer treated for knee injury after police truck, police SUV collide

    Accidents

    Times staff

    TAMPA — A Tampa police officer was treated and released for a knee injury when his unmarked police truck collided with a patrol SUV while the officers were tracking a stolen car, a police spokesman said.

  4. Waiting for the eclipse: 'Everyone thinks this is cool'

    Human Interest

    ST. PETERSBURG — Hunter Holland came to school Monday with a NASA space T-shirt and solar viewers in his button-up shirt pocket. But he'd rather be in Missouri.

    Jayda Hebert (front, center), 11, uses her protective glasses to watch Monday's solar eclipse with her cousin, Judah Adams (back left), 11, and her brother Jake Hebert (right), 9, while with their family at St. Petersburg Beach. "We're skipping school for the eclipse," her mom, Sarah Hebert, said. [DIRK SHADD   |   Times]
  5. Second person resigns from Hillsborough diversity council after Confederate activist appointed

    Blogs

    TAMPA — A second person has resigned symbolically from the Hillsborough County Diversity Advisory Council after the appointment of a known activist of Confederate causes to the panel. 

    Two people have resigned from the Hillsborough County Diversity Advisory Council after the inclusion of David McCallister, a leader of the local branch of the Sons of Confederate Veterans.