TAMPA — Thomas Huggins says his dog, Bandit, was getting aggressive, and he couldn’t sell her because she was a pit bull mix.
So he killed her.
Then he dismembered her.
Jurors who convicted him today of animal cruelty didn’t hear what authorities say he did next – cooked and ate her.
That’s because Circuit Judge Samantha Ward granted defense motions to limit the evidence because what happened to the dog after it died couldn’t be considered cruel because the animal couldn’t feel it.
The jury deliberated less than an hour before convicting him of the third-degree felony, which carries a maximum of five years in prison.
Ward scheduled sentencing for Dec. 19. Huggins asked if he could be sentenced immediately after the verdict, but the judge said no.
“I don”t think you”d like my sentence if I sentenced you right now,” she said.
The judge recommended, but did not order, that Huggins, who has no previous criminal record, undergo a psychiatric examination, saying any findings would carry great weight in her sentence.
When police arrived at Huggins’ house June 27, they found the dog’s ribs cooking in a pot in the stove and other body parts in the freezer. The dog’s head and pelt were outside in a garbage bag.
Assistant State Attorney Joel Elsea argued that jurors should convict Huggins because Bandit struggled and suffered when Huggins strangled her with his bare hands.
Defense lawyers argued the prosecution had not proved the death was especially cruel, and that the law under which Huggins was charged does not prohibit killing animals.
Tampa police Officer Thomas Ferrell testified Huggins told him what happened.
“He said the dog had become more and more aggressive with him over time, and so he decided at this time he was going to take the dog’s life,” Ferrell said. “He told me that he wrapped his hands around the dog’s neck and he strangled it. He made sure that the dog was dead and then he proceeded to skin it, remove the insides of it, decapitated it, and then he cut it up…When he finished cutting the dog up, he put the remaining parts in the freezer.”
Huggins, 26, took the stand and said Ferrell must have misunderstood him.
He said he used a plastic garbage bag to suffocate the dog, holding her with a towel or blanket to keep her from struggling. He said he had to try twice because Bandit got away the first time.
“I didn’t want to torture the dog,” he said. “I put it down because it was getting aggressive.”
He said he used some kind of cloth to try to hold her, but “she kept kicking and stuff.”
Huggins’ mother and sister testified against him.
His mother, Margie Huggins, said the last she saw the dog, Bandit was sleeping next to her bed.
Monica Huggins, the defendant’s sister, said she called police because “I was so shocked by what had occurred.”
Veterinarian Bill Zingalie testifed he couldn’t determine the exact cause of death because of the state of the remains when they were taken to his office.
“The evidence came in four different bags,” he said.