The ticks were everywhere inside the East Tampa duplex when police went in Tuesday afternoon. The parasites covered two dogs and could even be seen crawling up the walls.
The clusters of bloated ticks inside both dogs' ears resembled "the seed pod of a magnolia tree," one officer said in the report.
The dogs, one named Dog and the other D.J., were living in the cramped duplex with no air conditioning or food. Officers said the temperature was 85 degrees inside Apartment A at 4703 N. 42nd St. Electricity at the duplex had been shut off for a month.
Catherine P. Washington, 51, was charged with multiple counts of animal cruelty and confining animals without food and water.
Hillsborough County Animal Services officers were at the home and issued a citation Oct. 11 ordering Washington to get immediate veterinary treatment for Dog and D.J., both black Shar-Pei and Labrador mixes. Both animals were covered with ticks and in "unnecessary pain and suffering due to the omission of medical care that both dogs required," police said.
Animal Services spokeswoman Marti Ryan said veterinarians and assistants spent hours picking ticks off the dogs Tuesday night.
They are being treated and Animal Services will try to get Washington and a roommate, who hasn't been arrested, to relinquish ownership of the dogs so they can be nursed back to health and put up for adoption. Ryan said the hope is to get the animals ready for a pet-adoption event at the Florida State Fairgrounds on Nov. 14.
But the dogs have a long way to go, she said. Ticks make animals anemic, and that can take time to cure.
"This was one of the worst, most sickening, most disgusting incidents of infestation our staff has ever seen," she said.
Police said both dogs were emaciated with rib bones sticking out, and there was no food available for them.
Washington told officers she knew she was responsible for the dogs' care and tried treating the open sores by pouring vegetable oil on them. Both dogs had fur missing, scabs and sores and were covered in greasy oil, police said.
Washington told officers she couldn't afford to feed herself, "much less the dogs."
Washington remained in jail this morning. Bail was set at $6,000.