Two teenagers have been arrested and charged with strapping a dog to railroad tracks in Sulphur Springs a week ago, shooting her and leaving her for dead.
Police said the mixed breed they have named Cabela had been purchased for dog fighting. They said during a news conference Wednesday night that she was shot after her new owners determined she was a poor fighter.
Natwan Callaway and Bobby Hollinger, both 17 and from Tampa, face an aggravated animal cruelty charge. Callaway, suspected of being the shooter, faces an armed trespassing charge, and Hollinger faces a trespassing charge for being on CSX property.
Two adults also were arrested.
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Darnell N. Devlin, 18, and Kenny Bell, 21, were arrested Wednesday and charged with possession of a fighting dog. During their investigation, Tampa detectives searched the home of the dog, called Cabela, and found two other dogs with fighting injuries, police said. Detectives also found evidence of dog fighting in the backyard.
Devlin and Bell admitted to owning Cabela and the two other dogs, which Hillsborough County Animal Services took into custody, police said.
Investigators say Hollinger initially threw Cabela in the woods and shot at her. But Cabela ran home and sat on the porch, injured. So the teens caught and walked her back to the railroad tracks, tied her down and shot her again.
Police said they were tipped off to a surveillance video that shows Callaway, Hollinger and two adults walking Cabela to the railroad tracks. This was after the initial shooting, police said.
They used the video to identify one of the suspects and received confessions from Callaway and Hollinger, police said.
Stories of the dog’s shooting spread internationally and Tampa police received thousands of comments on their social media pages from animal lovers expressing outrage over the incident. Police said they, too, were emotionally affected.
“Nothing really prepares you to see a helpless animal tied so tight to a railroad track that she is literally pinned down,” said Sgt. Rich Mills, a 20-year veteran of the Tampa Police Department and military veteran who was one of the first to come to Cabela’s aid. “It touched me.”
Mills said he and his squad were one of three units to initially respond to shots fired along the railroad tracks south of Busch Boulevard. But what he saw at the end of E. Eskimo Drive disturbed him: Cabela, with gunshot wounds in the neck and right shoulder, belted down to the tracks like cargo tied down on a vehicle.
Lying in a pool of blood, Cabela neither whimpered nor barked, Mills said. He described the situation as “eerie.” Mills said his officers fashioned a makeshift muzzle, placed it around the pit bull mix’s mouth and carried her to a squad car.
Officers called CSX to halt possible trains and rushed the dog to emergency care.
Those at the Tampa Bay Veterinary Emergency Service clinic feared Cabela might lose a leg, but surgery proved successful, and she emerged with all limbs intact, a rod in the injured leg.
The clinic was flooded with donations, according to employees there. One woman, Selena Chiavatti, 33, drove from Orlando to donate a pink bed, toys and treats for the recovering dog.
“It's just a lot,” she said, tearing up. “That dog is sitting there in terror and no one is coming. ... It drives me crazy that people would do this.”