TAMPA, Fla. (FOX 13) - After the seizure of more than 350 dogs from a breeder in East Tampa, officials have uncovered more than 20 years of alleged animal abuse and neglect at the hands of the property owner and business manager.
In 1999, a court banned the property owner, Alice Holt, from owning dogs. Tuesday, Animal Control workers removed more dogs from her property on East Diana Street.
"Obviously, 350 animals couldn't be removed in one day, with coming in and having to document a lot of the evidence," explained Hillsborough County Animal Control Division Director Roger Mills.
Investigators say the manager of Trish's All-Breed Grooming, Robert Royers, owns the dogs removed this week -- not Holt.
Investigators said they talked to Royers' lawyer, but they would still like to talk to him personally.
It's also not the first time Royers has been in trouble for the conditions in which he keeps dogs, but it does not appear he has been banned by a court from owning animals.
In 2011, hundreds of dogs were removed from the same facility and, despite the 1999 ban preventing Holt from owning dogs, a judge said she could own the land on which the breeding operation was run.
"She's the owner of the physical structure she does not own any of the animals, because in 1999, a judge banned her from owning animals. But she still is involved in the management of the business," said Hillsborough County Pet Resource Center Department Director Scott Trebatoski. “Robert Royers is the actual owner of the business and owner of the dogs. All of the dogs are licensed in his name; health certificates are in his name."
The dogs were removed from the facility and the matter was closed. It does not appear any criminal charges or court orders were submitted at that time.
More than 10 years prior, police seized dozens of dogs from the East Diana Street facility. Trebatoski said the dogs found during the 1999 incident were in worse conditions than the ones removed this week. He blames bureaucracy for the facility’s continued operation in spite of the owner and manager’s past.
Mills says it has to do with the orders handed down by judges.
"We will have new orders created. That's all going to depend on, once we get all of our paperwork, all of our investigation together, and get with a county attorney and decide what we can do to prevent anything like this from happening again," Mills explained.
When Animal Control workers began removing dogs Monday, they found one deceased dog and another so sick it had to be euthanized overnight.
Many of the surviving dogs suffer from skin issues, dental disease, eye infections, and ulcers, according to the Pet Resource Center. County workers said they found as many as 30 dogs in cages meant for just one or two.
Dogs taken from the facility Monday and Tuesday were taken to the Pet Resource Center’s emergency facility to be examined by veterinarians. It’s unclear if or when they will be available for adoption.