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Elderly woman's love for animals lands her behind bars

According to county records, Cynthia Latson, 75, was arrested on a contempt of court charge after missing hearings related to her pets.

She’s 75. She loves her cats and dogs. But somehow her fondness of pets landed her in handcuffs, and eventually behind bars in the Hillsborough County jail.

“They're treating her like a common criminal,”  Kim Taylor, Cynthia Latson’s daughter said. "It's horrible. It's the worst because like I said, I'm worried that she could have a heart attack, that she could have a stroke. I just don't know the condition she's in.”

Latson, of Valrico, was arrested overnight Thursday on a contempt of court charge. She failed to show up for a couple of hearings related to an ongoing dispute with the Hillsborough County’s Pet Resource Department.

She was released Friday.

A county attorney said this all started a few years back when neighbors complained about the cats and dogs at Latson's home. Animal services decided to let her keep the pets, provided she complied with a minimum care agreement. The matter escalated when she didn't keep up, and it became criminal when she missed court dates that led to a contempt of court charge.

"One time she got lost driving here. Another time she got here, but she was late, and the deputy even let the judge know,” Taylor said.

Taylor said her mother has two dogs and six or seven cats. She was not abusive of the animals, Taylor added.

"A situation like this shouldn't necessarily lead to these circumstances,” Latson’s attorney Sean Colon said. “She obviously needs to keep in line with the agreement that she made with the city in the first place, but at the same time, we feel that there might be more appropriate ways to go about sort of handling of the situation."

A judge ordered Latson to be released Friday. Latson has another court hearing scheduled in June.

"Mrs. Latson is a good woman. She doesn't have any malintent. She's not looking to take advantage of any circumstances. She's an older, ailing woman who finds solace in helping animals,”  Colon said.

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