The first sign of trouble at the Ikea store in East Tampa surfaced during its grand opening on Wednesday, when a customer was arrested on animal cruelty charges. It was the second time in 1 1/2 years she was charged with the same offense under similar circumstances.
Tampa police charged Amy Chantarak, 19, about 2 p.m. Wednesday after a Tampa police officer working at the store's opening was told by a passer-by that a dog was locked in a car.
Hillsborough County Animal Services spokeswoman Marti Ryan said Chantarak left her 3-month-old mixed breed dog, Mr. Snuggles, in the black Mazda with the windows cracked for at least 40 minutes. Ryan said the temperature outside was about 90 degrees so inside the car, after about a half-hour, it would have risen to about 120 degrees.
"On the backseat of the vehicle," said the police report written by Officer Paul Smalley, "I noticed a puppy which was light brown and white in color. This puppy was panting very heavily."
The officer was able to reach into the car with his baton and unlock the door. The dog was pulled out of the car by the officer and brought to his patrol car, where the puppy breathed in the cool air conditioning. The dog eventually made it to the animal services shelter in Brandon, where it was checked out by a veterinarian. It appears the dog was healthy, Ryan said.
"It's remarkable this dog is doing as well as it is doing," she said.
Chantarak was taken to the Orient Road Jail, where corrections officers found an active warrant out of Pinellas County on an identical charge.
Ryan said that Chantarak, in December 2007, went to her boyfriend's relatives' home and couldn't take her Chihuahua, Mumu, inside because the people there had allergies, so she left the dog in her car overnight. She was cited but never showed up for court, Ryan said, and a warrant was issued.
Chantarak was released from jail just after midnight today after posting $1,013 bail, records show.
Mr. Snuggles will remain in the care of the county shelter, Ryan said, at least for the time being.
The dog owner "will either surrender custody or we will petition custody of the dog," she said. "We think that maybe the dog can do better in the care of someone more responsible."