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Police return to home, seize 24 more pit bulls

For the second time in less than three months, investigators went to the same north Tampa apartment and found pit bullterriers living in what they described as a state of filth and dangerous mistreatment.

By the time Tampa police and Hillsborough animal services investigators had finished searching the one-story duplex apartment at 10004 N 11th St. Tuesday, they had counted 24 pit bullterriers crammed in outdoor cages and locked rooms, said crime prevention officer Greg Hattle.

A few of the dogs had cuts, small puncture wounds or scars _ signs that they've been used in organized dog fights, investigators said. Others were emaciated.

"They're confined in small spaces. They have very little food and water," said animal services investigator Corp. Ken Vetzel. "There's no quality of life for these animals."

Officers also found training tools and paperwork that suggest residents James Edward Keister and Anastasia Concepcion Usher bred and trained the dogs to fight, said police spokesman Joe Durkin.

Keister, 24, and Usher, 26, were not home when police executed a search warrant. Durkin said the investigation continues.

Keister and Usher were charged in June with two counts each of animal cruelty, after investigators found conditions similar to those seen Tuesday.

In the June case, animal services investigators seized 10 pit bulls _ including two with serious wounds. Keister and Usher pleaded not guilty to the misdemeanor charges, and are due in court next month.

On Tuesday, animal services investigators loaded the 24 pit bulls _ 12 of them puppies _ into cages in county vans. Neighborhood residents, several of whom said Keister acts as a veterinarian for their dogs, stuck their hands in the cages and talked to the pit bulls.

"He's here to help people like me who can't afford a vet," said Maria Mendez. "He's taking care of my dog right now because he's sick."

But Hattle said other neighbors told him they are afraid of the dogs _ that in the past, some of the dogs have gotten out and threatened them.

"These dogs are very strong, very agile," Hattle said. "They terrorize children, adults. They could hold this neighborhood hostage."

County animal services will evaluate the dogs, Hattle said. He warned that many of them might not be adoptable because of the way they've been trained.

Staff researcher Caryn Baird contributed to this report. Shannon Colavecchio-Van Sickler can be reached at (813) 226-3373 or svansicklersptimes.com.

One of the male pit bullterriers found with scars and wounds on its face, looks out Tuesday from a cage behind the one-story duplex apartment at 10004 N 11th Street in Tampa. Twelve adult and 12 puppy pit bullterriers were removed from the site.

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