SARASOTA — A homeless Sarasota woman has run out of time to prove she can keep her pets safe and healthy.
Louella Plett, 49, who was living behind railroad tracks on South Beneva Road, was arrested Thursday and charged with two counts of cruelty to animals for not properly caring for her dogs.
She bonded out the same day, but her 3-year old female Chihuahua, Brownie, remains in the custody of Sarasota County Animal Services.
Lt. Paul Cernansky, who oversees Animal Services, said it’s uncommon for the department to seek custody of a dog, but that’s what is at stake.
Animal Services made contact with Plett in November and December and again in May and July, when formal action was taken.
Following an arrest, from November through March of 2019, Plett and her boyfriend were in the Sheriff’s Housing Facilitating Initiative Transient Services, or SHIFTS, program. At the time, Plett had three dogs — Brownie, Pearly and Perco. The dogs remained in the care of Animal Services throughout their incarceration.
Plett later relinquished custody of Perco, while Brownie and Pearly were returned to her when she acquired stable housing.
When Plett was evicted from the Janie Poe housing project for not paying rent, she went back to residing in a tent with her dogs.
In December a Homeless Outreach Team member visited Plett. Brownie was thin and Pearly had died. Animal Services worked with Plett to get Brownie back into good condition.
In May 2020, Plett called upon the Sheriff’s Office Homeless Outreach Team for help. Brownie was again emaciated, covered in fleas and wouldn’t eat.
Authorities provided free services through the Bay Road Animal Hospital’s “street dog” program. Brownie recovered and was vaccinated and spayed, and Plett was again warned her dog could be impounded if she didn’t provide routine veterinary services.
In late July, the Homeless Outreach Team did a welfare check on Brownie and found the Chihuahua was again thin and flea-infested. They also learned Plett by then had a second dog, Tripod, who was injured, underweight and covered in fleas.
Plett said she rescued Tripod from someone who wasn’t properly caring for the dog.
A formal investigation was initiated and Plett agreed to give up custody of Tripod, which had a fractured leg and was in constant pain.
Animal Services got the dog to a veterinarian but the leg had to be removed. A rescue animal partner agreed to adopt Tripod after he recuperated.
Brownie remains at Animal Services, but Plett hasn’t been willing to relinquish custody, Cernansky said.
In September, formal charges were filed against Plett and the case was forwarded to the State Attorney’s Office for review. In October, a warrant was issued, leading to Plett’s arrest on Oct. 8. She faces two charges of animal cruelty.
The case comes before a judge on Nov. 13.