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Hillsborough animal investigators find a human in need of care

A 6-week-old Jack Russell terrier at Hillsborough County Animal Services that was recently seized  by investigators with the agency. Eight dogs including seven Jack Russells and two macaw birds were taken.

SKIP O’ROURKE | Times

A 6-week-old Jack Russell terrier at Hillsborough County Animal Services that was recently seized by investigators with the agency. Eight dogs including seven Jack Russells and two macaw birds were taken.

ODESSA — When an Animal Services investigator visited Richard Pensa's house in December, she rescued a Jack Russell terrier that had long suffered a painful skin disorder.

Tuesday, authorities arrived to seize Pensa's remaining pets.

This time, they rescued the 58-year-old owner, too.

"To say he was jaundiced would be an understatement," Hillsborough County Animals Services spokeswoman Marti Ryan said Wednesday.

The lead investigator, Sgt. Pam Perry, decided the animals could wait a bit longer. Authorities called an ambulance. Pensa checked into St. Joseph's Hospital-North and was in fair condition Wednesday afternoon.

Hospital officials did not disclose Pensa's medical condition. He did not return a news reporter's call.

The investigation started Dec. 28, with an anonymous tip on Animal Service's after-hours hotline, created in September to collect leads about Lovey, the cat shot 30 times with a pellet gun and dumped into McKay Bay.

During the first visit, an Animal Services investigator convinced Pensa to voluntarily surrender Jack, the terrier suffering from ichthyosis, a disorder that causes scaly skin.

The 4-year-old dog had trouble walking, court records state.

Pensa told investigator Angela Snyder that he had taken the dog to a veterinarian, but vet records showed the visit was three years ago, according to court records. Pensa had not been following the treatment plan, Ryan said.

On Jan. 4, he was charged with felony animal cruelty.

Pensa was released from jail later that day, but on Feb. 2, a judge gave the county custody of the terrier and forbade Pensa from owning animals.

After obtaining a search warrant Tuesday, authorities showed up at Pensa's home.

"We believe we got there in the nick of time," Ryan said. "The dog owner was very, very ill."

Inside the Odessa home, they found five more Jack Russells living in squalor, allowed to urinate on furniture, Ryan said. They seemed to have been fed but not socialized. A great Pyrenees found on a balcony appeared to have not been allowed indoors, she said.

One Jack Russell has been adopted, and the rest — except for the 6 week-old puppy — are available. That includes Jack, the terrier with the skin disorder.

"He's feeling much better now and getting medicated baths for his skin," Ryan said. "He's loving life."

Times news researcher Shirl Kennedy contributed to this report. Jessica Vander Velde can be reached at (813) 226-3433 or jvandervelde@sptimes.com.

To report animal abuse or neglect

Hillsborough: Between 8 a.m. and 5 p.m., call (813) 744-5660; after hours, call (813) 744-5550

Pasco: Call (813) 929-1212, (727) 834-3216 or (352) 521-5194

Pinellas: Call (727) 582-2600

Hillsborough animal investigators find a human in need of care 02/09/11 [Last modified: Wednesday, February 9, 2011 9:13pm]
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