Make us your home page

Today’s top headlines delivered to you daily.

(View our Privacy Policy)

Town 'N Country woman gets five years in prison for animal cruelty

Cynthia Cuervo will be on probation for 20 years and restricted from owning animals when she is released from prison. She has 30 days to appeal.


Cynthia Cuervo will be on probation for 20 years and restricted from owning animals when she is released from prison. She has 30 days to appeal.

TAMPA — A Town 'N Country woman accused of hoarding and neglecting more than two dozen animals will serve five years in prison, a judge ruled Wednesday.

Cynthia Cuervo had pleaded guilty to 25 charges, including three counts of felony cruelty to animals and 20 misdemeanor charges of unlawful confinement without food or water. She also pleaded to two felony counts of resisting arrest with violence and battery on a law officer.

Cuervo, 47, was arrested in February after investigators discovered 22 dogs — some of them suffering eye ulcers, untreated sores and broken bones — confined without food or water, along with a dead bird. A spokeswoman for the Hillsborough County Animal Services called her a "hoarder of the worst kind."

Cuervo wasn't even allowed to own animals at the time. She was on probation for a 2008 neglect case after authorities seized 16 dogs and a crate of bones from an apartment where she lived.

"I've never seen anything like it," Circuit Judge Gregory Holder said Wednesday.

Holder gave Cuervo the maximum 25-year prison sentence, but suspended 20 years of it. When she gets out of prison, she'll be on probation for 20 years and will again be restricted from owning animals.

"No animals of any kind. None, zip, nada," Holder said.

Cuervo has 30 days to appeal.

Prison sentences for animal cruelty convictions aren't typical, but prosecutors and county animal services investigators argued that Cuervo had shown she cannot stop herself. She was not only on probation but had been forbidden, twice, by a civil court from owning animals.

"The impact this person has had on the animals in our community is overwhelming," animal control officer Sgt. Pam Perry testified. "This has got to stop."

In the past six years, Perry said, animal investigators seized more than 80 animals from Cuervo.

Hillsborough County deputies also charged her with two counts of child neglect in February after finding her two young daughters in the home, which reeked of urine and had dried feces piled so high in the bathroom that the door wouldn't open.

Prosecutors did not pursue those charges, however, because the two girls, now ages 12 and 13, were healthy and other parts of the home, such as their bedrooms, were in good condition. The girls remain in state custody, prosecutor Susan Lopez said.

Cuervo's attorney, Samie Ata, asked the judge for relief, saying Cuervo has mental health problems.

"It's obvious we're dealing with a sick person here," he said. "Prison is not the solution."

Cuervo did not speak during the hearing. Her father, Eddie Cuervo, told Holder that her actions resulted from the abuse she had suffered at the hands of her earlier relationship.

"This is an end product of an abusive man, mentally and physically," he said.

Ata said a psychological exam that found Cuervo competent to stand trial also determined that she suffered from depression and got overwhelmed by the stress of caring for the animals. It was, he said, "a learned helplessness rather than lack of genuine care."

Jodie Tillman can be reached at or (813) 226-3374.

Town 'N Country woman gets five years in prison for animal cruelty 09/12/12 [Last modified: Wednesday, September 12, 2012 11:01pm]
Photo reprints | Article reprints

© 2017 Tampa Bay Times


Join the discussion: Click to view comments, add yours

  1. Still worried about family, Tampa Bay Puerto Ricans ramp up relief effort


    TAMPA — Brenda Irizarry is worried.

    Brenda Irizarry of Tampa, while agonizing over the status of family in storm-ravaged Puerto Rico, is helping lead an effort to collect and send supplies to the island. [ALESSANDRA DA PRA  |   Times
  2. Was it a crime? 10 patients at nursing home died after Irma


    HOLLYWOOD, Fla. (AP) — A 10th elderly patient has died after being kept inside a nursing home that turned into a sweatbox when Hurricane Irma knocked out its air conditioning for three days, even though just across the street was a fully functioning and cooled hospital.

    The Rehabilitation Center of Hollywood Hills, 1200 N. 35th Ave. [EMILHY MICHOT | Miami Herald]
  3. Oh, Florida! Irma's gone, but she left behind plenty of lessons for us


    I don't want to make light of the misery and death that Hurricane Irma inflicted on Florida this month. A lot of it was ugly, and some of it was downright criminal. We saw greed and pettiness on display, and it brought illness and death.

    Tampa Bay Times staff writer Craig Pittman.
  4. 'Toxic' times: How repeal of Florida's tax on services reverberates, 30 years later

    State Roundup

    TALLAHASSEE — Long before Hurricane Irma attacked Florida, the state faced a troubled fiscal future that the storm will only make worse.

    Robertson says the tax debate is now “toxic.”
  5. Facebook to release Russia ads to Congress amid pressure

    NEW YORK (AP) — Facebook will provide the contents of 3,000 ads bought by a Russian agency to congressional investigators.