Times Staff Writer
PALM HARBOR — Veterinary bills for the 121 small-breed dogs taken this month from a home in East Lake could eventually reach $15,000 to $18,000, according to the head of the rescue group caring for them.
As a result, a fundraiser to benefit the nonprofit Suncoast Animal League has been scheduled from 7 to 10 p.m. Wednesday at Boyle's Backyard Neighborhood Bar & Grill, 1101 Nebraska Ave., Palm Harbor.
The event will include an auction, beverages and snacks and a presentation by the animal league's director Rick Chaboudy.
The dogs were removed April 7 from the Ranch Road home of longtime dog breeder Teresita Hughes. Rescuers from the animal league and Pinellas County sheriff's deputies have said they encountered a strong smell of urine and found dogs living two to eight per cage, many of them malnourished. They were accompanied by an inspector from the U.S. Department of Agriculture.
Most of the rescued dogs were Pomeranians, Yorkshire terriers and Maltese.
Hughes could not be reached for comment Monday, but a man who has answered the telephone at her home in the past previously said descriptions of the dogs' living conditions had been fabricated.
The Sheriff's Office has opened an investigation into possible animal neglect and has said it plans to send its findings to the Pinellas-Pasco State Attorney's Office. The Suncoast Animal League plans to go to court, probably this week, in an attempt to get custody of the dogs.
Of the 121 dogs removed from the home, one, a female Pomeranian, has died of an infection, Chaboudy said Monday. He said another remains in critical condition with kidney problems, and a third has spent a lot of time in an oxygen unit.
Several have had surgery to remove mammary tumors, several have problems with their knee joints, eight are pregnant and almost all have dental problems.
"We're at about $2,300, $2,400 (in veterinary care) right now," he said, "and we really haven't gotten into the vet bills yet."