Two Labrador retrievers in Lakeland, Florida, are recovering after a man allegedly beat them in the heads with sledgehammers late last week.
Tupac and Bella will likely remain at the SPCA of Florida’s veterinary hospital for a few more days before being transferred to foster care, SPCA marketing director Jessica Lawson told The Huffington Post Friday.
Tad Whitworth, 49, is facing two counts of felony animal cruelty for allegedly beating Tupac and Bella. He's accused of attacking the dogs after his girlfriend, who owns them, asked him to euthanize them because she felt they were too old. Polk County deputies said witnesses saw Whitworth bludgeoning the animals' heads and bodies last Friday, according to the Orlando Sentinel.
Lawson said the dogs seem well-adjusted, considering the ordeal they've been through. At first, Bella was growling a bit, but Lawson said her temperament has been steadily improving as her pain subsides.
When Lawson visited with the dogs on Friday, Bella “was just sitting there loving on Kristy,” she said, referring to a veterinary technician at the hospital. “Her tail was wagging, which I hadn’t seen yesterday.”
Once the dogs fully recover, which could be within a few weeks, the plan is to offer them up for adoption.
"I didn’t hear of any adopters yet, but hopefully once they’re all patched up someone extra-special will come forward," said Lawson. She noted that the SPCA is able to care for Bella and Tupac thanks to donations to the organization’s Guardian Angel Fund.
“Obviously, this is certainly not a way to euthanize elderly pets,”Donna Wood, a public information officer at the Polk County Sheriff's Office, told local news station WPTV of Whitworth's alleged actions. She noted that animal control facilities are "certainly here to help people with that type of situation. You do not take that into your own hands with a sledgehammer.”
Wood added that the dogs were found covered in fleas, and it appeared no one had taken care of them for some time.
Whitworth is still at large, according to Sam McGuirt of the sheriff's office. A Facebook post from the office describes Whitworth as 6’3” and 205 pounds, with brown hair and blue eyes.
The sheriff's office did not have a representative immediately available to comment on whether the owner of the dogs would face charges.
Authorities are offering a cash reward for information on Whitworth’s whereabouts, and instruct those who may have seen him to call 1-800-226-TIPS or visit www.heartlandcrimestoppers.com.
Contact the author at Hilary.Hanson@huffingtonpost.com