TAMPA — Hillsborough County officials say the time has finally come for hundreds of fluffy, designer breed puppies to find their “furever homes.”
The puppies have spent the past 40 or so days as evidence in an animal cruelty case. But the Hillsborough County Pet Resources Department said Friday the “Diana Street Dogs” — more than 300 of them — will go up for adoption in the coming weeks.
Pet Resources officials had initially planned to make the dogs available for adoption during a special event on November 17. Organizers walked back those plans over the weekend, noting the overwhelming interest in adopting the animals. They said they hope to finalize the plan before Wednesday’s county commission meeting.
The popular pooches have been receiving medical care and much-needed TLC in county animal shelters since mid-September, when 352 animals were rescued from horrid living conditions inside Trish’s All Breeds Pet Grooming, an illegal puppy mill operating out of a home at 2501 E. Diana Street in Valrico.
The young dogs and their pups were stained with urine and feces when they were found. Many were missing teeth and some had multiple broken bones from living inside cramped cages packed with 20 to 30 dogs at a time.
Since county officials released photos of the cleaned-up pups — mostly small breeds like poodles, Maltese, Shih Tzus and terriers — Pet Resources staff say they have been flooded with thousands of queries from potential owners.
But bringing one home won’t be cheap.
Pending approval from Hillsborough County commissioners, the proposed adoption rates for the animals are $450 for dogs under 6 months old and $300 for dogs over 6 months. Those fees will stay the same for all Diana Street Dogs until every animal is placed in their “forever home,” staff said.
Those rates don’t include tag or pet registration fees. Residents of Hillsborough County receive a $50 discount off the total price.
In their resolution for county commissioners, Pet Resources staff said the increased adoption fees were “requested to deter reselling for profit and to raise funds for veterinary equipment to aid in future cases.”
Anyone wishing to adopt one of the rescue pups will also be required to sign a contract that prohibits the sale of any “Diana Street Dog” for up to three years. Owners also must agree to a home inspection by Pet Resource staff. Anyone found in violation of the agreement will be required to pay a $500 penalty, the resolution states.
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The animal seizure was the largest in the county’s history, said Pet Resources director Scott Trebatoski, and only came after staffers spent three years gathering enough evidence to convince authorities to pursue a criminal case against the breeder.
Hillsborough County was granted custody of the animals and a court order prohibits owner Robert Royers, of Crescent City, from ever possessing another animal. But state law required the puppies to remain in the county’s custody for a minimum of 30 days to allow for an appeal of the court’s ruling.
Not all of the animals have fully recovered from their life inside the puppy mill. The department’s medical staff are still treating some dogs who have special needs or require additional recovery time.
If the Chief Veterinarian deems any of the dogs unadoptable, the county said they will be sent to rescue organizations free of charge. Those details, too, should be made clear at Wednesday’s county commission meeting.