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Owner gives up custody of Mr. Snuggles, left in a hot car at Tampa Ikea

TAMPA — Mr. Snuggles, the dog found locked inside a hot car at the grand opening of Ikea last month, will soon have a new home.

His former owner, 19-year-old Amy Chantarak, voluntarily gave up custody at a hearing Wednesday afternoon with a quiet "yes, sir," after a withering judicial tongue lashing.

"What's wrong with you?" asked Hillsborough County Judge Nick Nazaretian. "What piece of furniture is worth your dog's life?"

Nazaretian barred Chantarak and her boyfriend, Paul Durrance, from owning another animal again in Hillsborough County without the court's permission. And he fined Chantarak $400 — the cost of keeping Mr. Snuggles in county care for the past month.

While the custody issue is settled, Chantarak still faces a criminal trial for animal cruelty. She declined to comment after Wednesdays' hearing.

Mr. Snuggles, a 3-month-old Lab and collie mix, has been living at the Animal Services investigative unit since Chantarak was arrested May 6. She was released from Hillsborough County jail after posting a $1,013 bail.

Investigators estimated Mr. Snuggles had been in Chantarak's black Mazda for about 40 minutes in more than 100-degree heat that day.

At the time of her arrest, Chantarak was wanted in Pinellas County for failing to appear in court on another animal cruelty charge from December 2007. She had been accused of leaving her chihuahua Mumu in the car overnight.

Animal Services spokeswoman Marti Ryan said Chantarak has no other dogs. She told Animal Services that Mumu died after being hit by a car.

Ryan said many people expressed interest in adopting Mr. Snuggles after the May incident made the news, but she had to turn them away while Chantarak had custody. Though the inquiries have died down, Ryan is confident Mr. Snuggles will soon have a loving home.

"It's easier while he's in the spotlight," Ryan said. "But he's so cute. He's so precocious."

As for Chantarak, "Take a good look," Nazaretian said. "All that love he could have given you, but you didn't give him love. You gave him heat."

Chantarak looked down. "Yes sir."

Owner gives up custody of Mr. Snuggles, left in a hot car at Tampa Ikea 06/10/09 [Last modified: Wednesday, June 10, 2009 11:27pm]
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