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Bucs’ Rakeem Nunez-Roches denies dog abandonment allegations

The backup defensive tackle says his family has received threats, forcing them to move and get legal and law-enforcement help.
Tampa Bay Buccaneers defensive tackle Rakeem Nunez-Roches (56) carries the American flag onto the field during player introductions just prior to taking on the Houston Texans on Dec. 21.
Tampa Bay Buccaneers defensive tackle Rakeem Nunez-Roches (56) carries the American flag onto the field during player introductions just prior to taking on the Houston Texans on Dec. 21. [ DOUGLAS R. CLIFFORD | Tampa Bay Times ]
Published Jan. 29, 2020
Updated Jan. 29, 2020

TAMPA — Bucs defensive lineman Rakeem Nunez-Roches denied last month’s allegations that he abandoned a dog registered to him and said that he and his family have been physically threatened, forcing them to move and seek legal and law-enforcement help.

Speaking for the first time since TMZ reported that a local animal rights group was accusing the Bucs player of abandoning a Cane Corso named Jitterbug on the side of the highway, Nunez-Roches issued a statement through his agency. He said that he and wife Tyrielle gave the dog to another family.

"We would never abandon a dog," Nunez-Roches said the in the statement. "We were expecting our first baby so we thought it would be safer to have only smaller dogs in the house. ... We have no idea how she ended up in an animal shelter, but we absolutely did not and would never abandon her or any other dog.

“We have all of our dogs identified with microchips, so we’re guessing the animal shelter saw our name if they scanned Jitterbug. The family that adopted Jitterbug from the shelter reached out to us, and we have been talking and texting with them ever since. We provided the family with her vet records, food preferences, the commands she responds to, and they have sent us photos of her with their other Cane Corso.”

Nunez-Roches said he and his wife have been breeding dogs since 2016-17, specializing in French bulldogs and pocket American bulldogs.

“We love our dogs and they are family to us,” he said in the statement. “We’ve never had kids so we treat them like our kids — we spoil them and they all live inside our home with us. Making money from breeding dogs is not important to us because we are blessed to be fine financially from my NFL career. Since we started in 2016-17, we’ve only had two litters. Both litters were bred from requests from other people wanting puppies. We don’t have breedings every week or month like some breeders, we’re not in it to make money. We breed dogs because of the joy it brings to both the two of us and the families our dogs go to live with.”

Nunez-Roches, a pending free agent who was a backup defensive tackle for the Bucs defense and a popular player in the locker room nicknamed “Nacho,” said that “because a few overzealous people mistakenly assumed we had abandoned a dog that was no longer ours, we have received threats and had our reputations smeared in the media.” He said the attention has forced him to file reports with the Tampa Police Department and the family hired a lawyer to stop threats.

“We are homebodies and quiet people and we don’t seek attention, but because a few people continue to smear our names without reason, we felt we had no choice but to set the record straight,” Nunez-Roches said. “Hopefully the groups who falsely accused us like Rescue Me Tampa and The Humane Society of the Nature Coast (both of which received cease and desist letters from our attorney) realize their mistake and we can all go back to living normal lives and taking care of our dogs and other pets.”

Contact Eduardo A. Encina at eencina@tampabay.com. Follow @EddieInTheYard.