A Lakeland, Florida, woman has been arrested and charged with animal cruelty after deputies said she allegedly used a "special seasoning" to poison her neighbor's two cats and pregnant dog because she did not want them coming into her yard.
The Polk County Sheriff's Office said that two cats, named Luna and Pancake, were found on Aug. 13, 2023, foaming at the mouth, choking and in "significant pain." The cats later died just a few hours apart from each other. Their owners then found their pregnant Chihuahua, Daisy, dead four hours later. The eight puppies in her womb also died.
Pet Owners Said The Woman Previously Threatened to Poison The Pets if They Came into Her Yard
The pets' owners told deputies that their neighbor, 51-year-old Tamesha Knighten, had previously threatened to poison their animals if they came into her yard. On the day that their pets died, they claimed they saw Knighten pacing by their shared fence, as reported by WFLA.
According to Polk County Sheriff Grady Judd, Knighten, a licensed practical nurse, also yelled at the victims' children that day, who were outside playing ball. The victims asked her not to yell at their kids. They said Knighten was also outside when they noticed their cat acting strangely in the yard, foaming at the mouth, and that Knighten said the cat must be choking on a frog.
Knighten Seen Wearing a Blue Glove on Camera, Holding Styrofoam Bowl Containing White and Brown Substance
While investigating what happened to the animals, detectives noticed video cameras in her yard and asked to see video from that day.
According to the sheriff, she showed them the video which showed her wearing a blue glove, holding a white Styrofoam bowl containing a white and brown substance. In the video she's also talking to a relative and pointing at the neighbor's yard.
"Why would you be wearing rubber gloves to handle the food that you just put out for the animals? Asked Sheriff Judd. "We asked if we would find any other substance in this chicken and she said, 'Just my special seasoning.' Well, her special seasoning was phorate."
Knighten Had Laced the Food with Pesticide
According to Sheriff Judd, samples from the white Styrofoam bowl of chicken laced with what Knighted described as her "special seasoning," and of the pets' tissues taken during their necropsies were sent to the University of Florida and analyzed by that school's veterinary pathology department, as well as labs at Texas A&M University and Michigan State University.
The chemical analysis confirmed that the pets had ingested phorate, a pesticide found in insecticides, which matched the sample from the laced canned chicken in the bowl, and doctors stated that phorate would have caused the animals to suffer.
In addition to three counts of animal cruelty, Knighten has also been charged with one count of depositing poison in a public area. Knighten's criminal history includes an arrest in September 2013 for aggravated battery (domestic) with a deadly weapon.