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Pinellas Humane Society medical director leaves post after boyfriend's arrest

CLEARWATER — The medical director at the Humane Society of Pinellas left her post late last week, days after her live-in boyfriend, a former Humane Society employee, was arrested on suspicion of possessing child pornography and having sex with their dog.

The nonprofit animal shelter, citing a policy against commenting on personnel issues, was tight-lipped about Katerina Williamson's departure and wouldn't say whether she was fired or left her job voluntarily. Shelter officials also wouldn't say whether her departure was related to her boyfriend's arrest on May 1.

"I'm not at liberty to discuss personnel matters," said Humane Society director of development Twila Cole. "I don't believe we have any further statement on that topic at this time."

Reached by phone, Williamson also declined comment.

"I'm not going to discuss that," said Williamson, 30.

Williamson's boyfriend, Eric Antunes, 29, was employed on a limited basis as a contract worker at the Clearwater shelter, Cole said. Antunes worked primarily in maintenance, she said, and other people were present when he had access to animals.

Former workers and volunteers dispute that, including Mike Eagle, who worked with dogs at the shelter until February. Eagle said Antunes worked with dogs in the Humane Society's medical kennels and was responsible for walking them and caring for them. Antunes worked in that position for several months last fall, he said.

"He was pretty much the only one down there to take care of the animals," Eagle said.

Antunes was arrested on 10 counts of possessing child pornography. The animal cruelty charge was referred to the Pinellas-Pasco State Attorney's Office for possible prosecution.

He was released from the Pinellas County Jail on Wednesday after posting $15,000 bail.

Clearwater police began investigating Antunes after getting a tip that he had child pornography. Antunes admitted downloading and viewing child pornography on his home computer, and a search of his hard drive found nine photos and one video of child pornography, police said. Several images of bestiality involving Antunes' and Williamson's dog were also found on his cell phone, according to police.

This is the Humane Society's second controversy involving Williamson this year. Last month, the Tampa Bay Times reported that several volunteers were frustrated with the direction of the shelter since Williamson was hired in September. Williamson previously worked for SPCA Suncoast in New Port Richey.

Four volunteers resigned in February, claiming the shelter killed dogs with treatable health conditions and correctable behavior issues. They also faulted the shelter for accepting hundreds of dogs from outside the Tampa Bay area while apparently rejecting dogs from the community.

Former volunteer Lori Ammons called Williamson's departure from the Humane Society "a step in the right direction."

Lorri Helfand can be reached at lorri@tampabay.com or (727) 445-4155. Go to tampabay.com/letters to write a letter to the editor.

Pinellas Humane Society medical director leaves post after boyfriend's arrest 05/07/12 [Last modified: Tuesday, May 8, 2012 8:50am]
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