TAMPA — Seven pit bull puppies and their mother are fighting off parasites and being nursed back to health after they were left exposed to the elements for almost 20 hours Tuesday outside a Town 'N Country apartment.
It was a puppy that didn't survive — with the other dogs feeding on its remains — that brought Hillsborough sheriff's deputies to the home of the dogs' owner, Marangillette Viera-Rivera, 33.
Viera-Rivera faces nine counts of animal cruelty. The dogs are being treated and cared for at the Hillsborough County Pet Resource Center.
Temperatures on Tuesday peaked around 90 degrees with a heat index of 105. When questioned, Viera-Rivera acknowledged the dogs were hers but denied any wrongdoing.
Viera-Rivera told investigators she was away that day performing community service, and that's why she left the dogs unattended.
When sheriff's deputies arrived, they could see the dead dog with seven other pit bull puppies, about 6 weeks old, along with an adult female named Dutchess. There was no food, water or shade in the fenced-in area or in the house.
"The (dogs) are full of these parasites, which is counteracting anything they could keep in their system," Pet Resource Center spokesperson Marti Ryan said.
Sheriff's deputies found Viera-Rivera inside her home at 8429 W Camden St., Apartment B. Viera-Rivera remains jailed without bail.
The puppies are still too young for rescue partners or foster parents to assume care, Ryan said, but they're expected to be healthy enough in a matter of weeks.
Viera-Rivera has been arrested several times in the past three years for charges including aggravated assault with a deadly weapon and drug-related offenses.
Times senior researcher John Martin contributed to this report. Contact Michael Majchrowicz at (813) 226-3374 or firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow @mjmajchrowicz.