Thursday, June 21, 2018
Public safety

Clearwater woman who housed exotic animals charged with illegal possession of alligator

CLEARWATER — A Clearwater woman who investigators said illegally housed birds, turtles, a pot-bellied pig and a 4-foot alligator was arrested Monday, five months after authorities seized her family's exotic menagerie.

Julie Linh Vu, 43, was charged with the illegal possession of an alligator, a felony in Florida, according to a Pinellas County Sheriff's Office arrest report. She was released Monday from the Pinellas County Jail after posting bail of $2,000.

Vu did not return a call Tuesday from the Tampa Bay Times.

She and her husband, Victor, kept the animals —22 birds, 21 turtles, a pot-bellied pig and an American alligator — in the yard of their two-story house south of Curlew Road.

Clearwater police, accompanied by officials from SPCA Tampa Bay, Pinellas County Animal Services and the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission, discovered and confiscated the animals in January. They were being kept in unsanitary conditions, without proper access to water, Clearwater police said. The American alligator was caged in violation of state law, which prohibits unauthorized possession of the species. The turtles swam in the pool.

Investigators referred charges of animal abuse and illegal possession of an alligator in January to the Pinellas-Pasco State Attorney's Office, Clearwater police said. The Vus also were accused of multiple city ordinance violations.

It was unclear Tuesday why authorities decided to press charges five months after the animals were seized, and why only Vu, and not her husband, was arrested.

Neighbor complaints about animal noises and smells led to the end of the Vus' animal kingdom on their grassy property at 2606 Brewton Court.

"Honestly, we love animals," Vu told the Tampa Bay Times in January. "We didn't know that the neighbors had a problem."

Vu had no previous criminal record in Florida, according to the Florida Department of Law Enforcement. Victor Vu bought the house in 2005, property records show.

Staff Writer Peter Jamison contributed to this report.

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