ST. PETERSBURG — Kenneth Frank and Robert Callahan don't deny that they suffocated Frank's ailing 11-year-old chihuahua last month.
But the men want people to know that their actions weren't inhumane or malicious.
"I never loved anything as much as that dog," Frank, 72, said. "And they're calling me an animal abuser. … It's just incredible."
Officials say an investigation is ongoing.
On Tuesday, both men were given notices to appear in court on a county animal cruelty charge, which carries a $143 fine.
In addition, the Pinellas County Sheriff's Office said it has referred its own charges of animal cruelty to the state attorney's office.
Both men give slightly different versions of what happened July 24 — the night Pee Pee, a 12-pound beige chihuahua, died.
Callahan, 50, says he had been telling Frank, who he had lived with for about six months, for weeks that he needed to euthanize Pee Pee.
But he said Frank became angry, even after local veterinarians said the dog didn't have much time to live.
Finally, he says, Frank woke him, asking for help.
"Ken said, 'Bob, would you please bring him in your room and put him down,' " Callahan said Wednesday.
Callahan, who said he used to be a dog groomer, said he held a plastic bag over the dog's head.
He says he stopped after about a minute.
"I was just trying to honor Ken's wishes," Callahan said. "I will regret it until the day I die."
Frank, however, told Pinellas sheriff's deputies he became concerned when he heard the dog whimper after about 20 minutes.
Both men agree about what happened next.
Frank took the dog, which was alive but unresponsive, and covered the dog's mouth with duct tape. He then placed a pillow over its head until it died.
"I held him in my arms," Frank said through tears Wednesday. "They called it animal abuse … my dog was dying."
Animal advocates said they often see people who want to end their pet's suffering.
But most people go about it a different way.
"This is pretty unusual," said John Hohenstern, a senior animal control officer for the county. "There are other ways to do it. They could've just brought the dog here."
The SPCA Tampa Bay, which exhumed the dog's body and plans to do a necropsy, also said it offers low-cost alternatives.
A pet can be euthanized for as little as $15, said Megan Trethewey, an SPCA spokeswoman.
"Even if you're destitute and out, there are options," Trethewey said. "There are options so that another animal does not have to suffer like this one did."
Kameel Stanley can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or (727) 893-8643.