Florida nurse poisoned neighbors cats, pregnant dog for going into her yard: Sheriff

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A Florida nurse has been arrested for animal cruelty after she allegedly poisoned her neighbors’ two pet cats and a Chihuahua pregnant with eight puppies, Polk County Sheriff’s Office (PCSO) said.

Tamesha Knighten, 51, was arrested Wednesday for the pet deaths that occurred on Aug. 16, 2023. Authorities were alerted after the owners’ two cats, Luna and Pancake, died within hours of each other. Both cats had been choking, unable to breathe, foaming from the mouth and showing signs of pain, the owners said.  

About four hours later, the owners could not find their pregnant Chihuahua named Daisy and began looking for her. She was found dead, along with the puppies in her womb, the sheriff’s office said in a news release. 

“Do not, ever, poison innocent animals unless, of course, you want to go to jail as well,” Sheriff Grady Judd said during a news conference Friday. 

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51-year-old Tamesha Knighten

Tamesha Knighten, 51, was charged with three counts of felony animal cruelty. (Polk County Sheriffs Office)

Knighten had repeatedly threatened to poison the pets if they went into her yard, the owners told investigators. The owners said they noticed her outside the day the animals died. 

Authorities found a white bowl with a white meaty substance mixed with a dark-colored material. Video showed Knighten holding the bowl with a rubber glove, Judd said, and she referred to the dark-colored material as her “special seasoning.” She allegedly told investigators she put the bowl of food outside to “feed animals in the area.”

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Pregnant Chihuahua poisoned

Chihuahua Daisy was pregnant with eight puppies, the sheriff’s office said. (Polk County Sheriff’s Office)

Judd said it took so long to get an arrest in the case because investigative samples had to be sent to labs at three universities, which discovered the animals had been poisoned with a chemical called Phorate.

Knighten is a licensed practical nurse working for United Health Care at Wellmed in Lakeland, PCSO said. She was charged with three counts of felony animal cruelty. 

Grady Judd animal cruelty

Polk County Sheriff Grady Judd holds a photograph of animal cruelty suspect Tamesha Knighten holding Styrofoam bowl while wearing a rubber glove. (Polk County Sheriff’s office)

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“These people lost their beloved pets in a most horrific way, and she lost her freedom by going to jail,” Judd said in the release. “It takes a cold-hearted person to poison and kill two cats and a pregnant dog – it’s hard to imagine how a person in the medical field could do such a thing.”



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