Make us your home page
Instagram

Today’s top headlines delivered to you daily.

(View our Privacy Policy)

Pasco woman who couldn't afford vet is convicted of animal cruelty

Tammy Brown lives off $508 a month. That's the Social Security disability payment she gets because of her degenerative bone disease and hypertension. About $300 goes to the mortgage and utilities at her Moon Lake mobile home, leaving $200 for food, medicines and whatever else comes up.

She didn't have money to take her dog, Harley, to the vet.

She applied an animal skin ointment that her daughter had given her called Nu-Stock, which didn't do much for Harley's dry skin or the baseball-sized growth dangling from the chow chow mix's neck.

Brown said Harley, 14, had lived with those tumors his entire life, and they would pop, and go away, and come back.

"He was like Eeyore," said Brown's daughter, Brandy Wadyka, referring to the popular character from Winnie the Pooh. "But he was a happy dog. Just nonchalant and old."

In 2011, an officer with Pasco Animal Services took Harley and had him put down. He had other obvious issues: pus coming out of his eyes and cracked, bleeding skin. Internally, he had heartworms and ear mites.

Brown, 47, was charged with animal cruelty.

Her lawyer, public defender Willie Pura, said in order to be guilty of animal cruelty, a person would need to intentionally harm an animal or repeatedly inflict unnecessary pain. Brown did none of these things, he argued. "She's not a criminal," he said. "She is, at most, guilty of neglect."

At a hearing last fall, however, the state argued Brown should have turned to a local animal shelter or dog rescue if she couldn't afford a vet.

"The problem is that she allowed things to get to a point where the dog suffered," Assistant State Attorney Chris Labruzzo said.

Labruzzo said the state offered Brown probation if she took a plea, but the defense wanted the charge dropped to a misdemeanor.

The case went to trial, and on March 20, a jury convicted her of animal cruelty. Circuit Judge William Webb remanded her to jail while she waits for sentencing, which is scheduled for Friday. She's been behind bars for more than a month.

"This is the worst thing I've ever experienced," Brown said from behind a glass pane Wednesday at the Land O'Lakes jail. "I'm in hell. I'm literally in hell. I'm in here on a charge that shouldn't be against me."

She could face up to five years in prison, but the state is seeking a lighter sentence.

"We're maintaining our request for probation," Labruzzo said. "She doesn't deserve to be incarcerated for any period of time."

Veterinarian Nilufer Wilkins testified at the trial that there was severe, long-term neglect in Harley's care. He had advanced heartworms, hookworms, anemia and infection in his ears and eyes. The vet said the owner should have sought professional medical care.

The vet also acknowledged having spent $10,000 to get care for her own cat, Pura said.

"I think there's kind of an elitist attitude about this," he said. "I guess poor people can't own dogs."

Brown has no previous felony charges, and said she's worried because now she has to register as one. "I would've never thought that jury would've burned me," she said. "I'm good. I don't do bad things. All I want to do is go home."

Options to get more affordable animal care

Michelle Wagner, a vet technician at San Antonio Animal Hospital in east Pasco, said there are some low-cost options for spaying, neutering and basic pet care, including:

• PetLuv NonProfit Spay & Neuter Clinic, 7348 Broad St., Brooksville, (352) 799-9990

• Planned Pethood, 5053 Gall Blvd., Zephyrhills, (813) 779-7000

• Pasco Animal Welfare Society, 11720 U.S. 19, Suite 18, Port Richey, (727) 819-1910

• Animal Coalition of Tampa, 502 N Gilchrist Ave., Tampa, (813) 250-3900

Residents also can turn to breed-specific rescues, nonprofit animal groups or their local animal control agency for help. But if the animal's quality of life has deteriorated, she said, humane euthanasia may be the best option.

Pasco woman who couldn't afford vet is convicted of animal cruelty 04/24/13 [Last modified: Thursday, April 25, 2013 10:43am]
Photo reprints | Article reprints

© 2017 Tampa Bay Times

    

Join the discussion: Click to view comments, add yours

Loading...
  1. Rick Baker debuts new campaign ad to woo younger voters

    Blogs

    Former mayor Rick Baker's campaign unveiled a reboot of sorts Tuesday with the debut of a new TV ad.

    Delores Green and mayoral candidate Rick Baker smile as they look at a selfie that Green took at a food truck food giveaway at Rick Baker's disaster assistance registration center on Central Ave. in St. Petersburg on Sept. 15.
  2. Editorial: DOT listens, adjusts on I-275 plans in Tampa

    Editorials

    Florida continues to improve its plan for modernizing the interstate system in Tampa Bay. The Florida Department of Transportation has unveiled four new options for rebuilding I-275 near downtown Tampa, and some of them would ditch previous plans for toll lanes downtown while keeping express lanes for faster, …

    State officials are re-evaluating parts of I-4 and I-275 in Tampa as part of a supplemental environmental impact study, or SEIS. 
  3. College basketball scandal dips into Tampa Bay

    Preps

    Tuesday's national college basketball scandal has recruiting ties to Tampa Bay.

    In this March 15, 2012, file photo, San Diego State assistant coach Tony Bland, left, talks during NCAA college basketball practice in Columbus, Ohio. Bland was identified in court papers, and is among 10 people facing federal charges in Manhattan federal court, Tuesday in a wide probe of fraud and corruption in the NCAA, authorities said. [AP Photo/Tony Dejak, File]
  4. Datz to open in St. Petersburg, join the James Museum of Western and Wildlife Art

    Food & Dining

    Now Datz news.

    Get it? Tuesday, Datz, the longtime line-out-the-door, oft-Instagrammed and -Yelped Tampa stalwart known for shock-and-awe sandwiches and oh-so-much bacon, announced it is coming to St. Petersburg.

    Lunch guest eat at Datz Deli at 2616 South MacDill Ave. in Tampa. Times files.
  5. Republican leader McConnell pulls the plug on latest Obamacare repeal effort

    WASHINGTON --- Sen. Mitch McConnell on Tuesday officially pulled the plug on the latest plan to repeal the health care law, telling senators they will not vote on the measure and effectively admitting defeat in the last-gasp drive to fulfill a core promise of President Donald Trump and Republican lawmakers.

    Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell of Ky. listens during a news conference on Capitol Hill in Washington, Tuesday, Feb. 7, 2017, after the Senate confirmed Betsy DeVos as education secretary. DeVos was approved by the narrowest of margins, with Vice President Mike Pence breaking a 50-50 tie in a historic vote. (AP Photo/J. Scott Applewhite) DCSA119