RIVERVIEW — A sign outside dubs the business "The Happy Puppy Place," but Hillsborough County Animal Services officials say it's anything but.
PM Tinies, a puppy sales business at the home of Patricia Martin Walters, 13605 U.S. 301 in Riverview, was shut down Wednesday after officials say they found 77 small-breed dogs living there in squalor.
Marti Ryan, an Animal Services spokeswoman, said the dogs — mostly chihuahuas — were living in a small house and several rusty trailers around it on the rural property. They range from a few weeks old to 21 years old.
Ryan said the trailers were in very rough shape, and living conditions inside the home were atrocious.
Ryan said the 73-year-old owner, Walters, and two other people who live there — Daniel Hickman, 41, and Elaine Cave, 69 — were arrested and charged with more than 80 counts of felony animal cruelty. They were taken to a Hillsborough County jail.
Ryan said Walters has been cited by Animal Services before. Officials have been watching her business since the 1990s, but only recently were they alerted to the extent of the problems.
"This is not the place for happy puppies from what I've seen today," Ryan said.