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22 emaciated pit bulls found in small crates

Animal control officers seized 22 emaciated pit bulls and pit bull mix dogs, saying they were kept in small crates and had not been given food or water for several days.

No charges have been filed against the dogs' owner, Charles Ellerson, 61, but the investigation is continuing.

Ellerson told officers he had not fed the dogs for three days because they were being treated for worms, said Manatee County animal services chief Kris Weiskopf. "He didn't feel they were being abused," Weiskopf said.

Records show several visits by officers to Ellerson's home in the past year because of claims of loose dogs, dog fights and neglect.

House speaker among candidate money leaders

TALLAHASSEE _ Republican House Speaker Johnnie Byrd and Democratic U.S. Rep. Peter Deutsch were the money leaders among candidates for a U.S. Senate seat in Florida over the last three months of 2003, figures filed Friday with the Federal Elections Commission show.

Deutsch, of Lauderhill, raised $751,285 from Oct. 1 through Dec. 31 and has nearly $4-million on hand, making him the candidate with the most overall money. He raised $1.3-million total last year.

Another Democrat, Miami-Dade County Mayor Alex Penelas, raised $366,000 in the last three months of 2003 and $2.2-million for the year. Penelas has about $1.6-million in the bank.

The top Republican money raisers so far are Byrd, of Plant City, and former U.S. Rep. Bill McCollum, of Longwood.

Byrd raised $775,972 in the last quarter of 2003 and $1.6-million in all. He has about $1.2-million still in the bank.

McCollum raised $525,604 in the final three months of last year to bring his total to just under $2-million and has $815,408 on hand.

Former Florida Education Commissioner Betty Castor, a Tampa Democrat, raised $431,000 in the last quarter of 2003 and $1-million for the year. Castor has $652,000 in the bank.

State Sen. Daniel Webster, a Republican from the Orlando area, raised $324,085 for the period, bringing his total to $505,145. Webster has $317,513 in the bank.

Former U.S. Housing and Urban Development Secretary Mel Martinez, a Republican, has just begun his campaign and didn't raise any money in 2003.

Former New Hampshire Sen. Bob Smith, a Republican who now lives in Sarasota, also didn't start his campaign until this year and didn't have to file.

A spokesman for Republican Larry Klayman, a former Justice Department attorney, said Friday he hadn't filed the paperwork with the FEC yet. The deadline was Friday.

_ Wire reports