Tampa man avoids jail time after killing, cooking and eating family dog

Man will undergo residential mental health treatment.

By Evan Bleier
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A Tampa man who was convicted last month of animal cruelty for killing, cooking and eating the family dog will not be going to prison after a court-appointed psychologist testified that he suffers from untreated mental illness and recommended residential mental health treatment.

Thomas Huggins, 26, claimed that he strangled and turned the family’s pit bull, Bandit, into a hot dog because she had become aggressive. He used a garbage bag to suffocate Bandit while holding her with a towel to stop her from struggling.


Psychologist Peter Bursten told the court that Huggins suffers from schizo-affective disorder, a form of schizophrenia.

"He knows that something's not right, but he doesn't understand the extent of it," said Bursten. "He knew what he was doing. He understood the wrongfulness of his behavior."

After initially saying that medicine is "the Antichrist," Huggins told Circuit Judge Samantha Ward he will take his meds.

"I don't believe medication is the Antichrist. I would take medication," he said. "I would agree to take medication and I would go to therapy if it would help . I don't want to go to prison."

While he was growing up, Huggins’ family caught, skinned and ate animals like rabbits and gophers to survive.


Assistant State Attorney Joel Elsea had requested that Ward find Huggins a danger to the community and sentence him to two years in state prison.

As part of Ward’s ruling, Huggins cannot own any pets or live in a house where animals are being kept.

[Orlando Sentinel]

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