Dozens of animals removed from home; couple charged - FOX 13 News

Dozens of animals removed from home; couple charged

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CLEARWATER (FOX 13) -

An alligator and more than 20 turtles were among the dozens of animals seized from a home in Clearwater Thursday morning.

Many of them were crammed into small cages without enough food or water.

The alligator and turtles are being kept at a private preserve in Seminole. We're told officials found different types of exotic turtles swimming in a pool, 21 soft shell and snapping turtles.

Some 45 animals seized in all.

"Twenty-two birds and one pot belly pig that we're taking back," said Jill Purl with the SPCA. "But there's more on the property."

And a lot more animals, who were corralled at a home on Brewton Court and seized.

"Dozens of birds, including chickens, roosters," said one official. Plus, 21 soft shell and snapping turtles.

"The swimming pool was green algae slime and that's where the turtles were living," said wildlife rescuer Vernon Yates. In fact, he said they were doing the best, out of all the animals confiscated.

"They were not underfed," said Yates. "As a matter of fact, the snapping turtle we took out of there is actually obese."

Plus, they seized a caged American alligator.

"Aw c'mon, hold still for a minute," said Yates as he wrestled the feisty gator, estimated to be about 3 years old, from his pen.

"He probably was out here in this lake and they caught him," said Yates.

The place was filthy and the animals had poor access to food, water and just being able to move. One official told us a bird was in such a tight cage, it couldn't even turn around.

"The indication we're getting from a preliminary assessment, is that they are being used as a food supply," said Elizabeth Watts with the City of Clearwater.

Their owners, Victor and Julie Vu, are charged with animal cruelty and for having the alligator without the proper permits.

And it's not like the animals were being kept in secret. Anybody walking by on the sidewalk could see exactly what was happening right through a large break in the hedges.

"We knew that there were lots of exotic birds running around the neighborhood because every time you would drive up and down the street, we'd see peacocks, or my wife's a birder and there'd be birds that she couldn't identify," a neighbor named Seth told us.

"Well, sometimes people do things without thinking about it, or they start out with one or two and it ends up building, building and building," said Yates.

The couple was not arrested, but Yates said if they can't produce the paperwork to show where the gator came from and how it came to be living in their backyard, they could be facing poaching charges, which are a lot more serious, than the misdemeanors they were hit with Thursday, for violating City ordinances.

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