TAMPA — Police on Monday were questioning a suspect in an arson fire that killed three cats early Saturday at the offices of the Animal Coalition of Tampa Bay.
Though he has not been charged with setting the blaze, Terrod Arrington, 33, visited the animal clinic several times in the days before the fire, police said. During one visit, he became angry and shoved one of the clinic's employees, leading authorities to charge him with battery.
Police issued a warrant for Arrington's arrest on the battery charge. He was taken into custody late Monday night and was being interviewed by police about the arson.
Police officers discovered the fire before 5 a.m. Saturday when they responded to an intrusion alarm at 502 N Gilchrist Ave., near the University of Tampa. When firefighters arrived, they quickly doused the blaze.
Three cats — Jazz, Boy and Mama — that roamed free in the clinic lobby died from smoke inhalation. An investigation found that the fire had burned in multiple spots throughout the building, leading authorities to declare it an arson.
A pit bull terrier was found safe in the clinic's parking lot. The dog apparently was let out by the person who set the blaze, police said.
Arrington, who has no permanent address, visited the low-cost clinic several times last week, police said. He first came in seeking treatment for a dog. Clinic workers, concerned the dog might be carrying parasites, told him to wait outside, police said. He left the dog tied to a railing and left. Workers considered the dog abandoned and put it up for adoption, police said.
Arrington later returned and demanded the dog back, according to police. He began reciting Bible verses and, at one point, shoved one of the clinic workers, police said.
In addition to the battery charge, he also has a warrant in the state of Maryland on a charge of aggravated assault, police said.
Damage to the clinic and its contents was estimated at $200,000, according to Tampa Fire Rescue. The Animal Coalition of Tampa Bay and Silverback Peace Group are offering a reward of up to $6,000 leading to the arrest and conviction of the person who set the fire.