Count the Florida Department of Transportation as the latest Citrus County property owner indicating it will take measures to evict a dog rescue organization.
FDOT representatives told Citrus County Sheriff’s deputies on Tuesday they would seek to evict Out of the Box Animal Rescue Inc. after group president Robert Schweickert Jr. refused to leave, even after the state said it was revoking plans to issue him a lease starting July 1.
The eviction process may not be necessary. A reporter who visited the location Wednesday, in a five-storefront plaza next to Sumter Electric Cooperative on U.S. 41 in Inverness, found it vacated with no signs that Schweickert or any dogs had been there.
Schweickert did not return a phone call seeking comment. There was no mention on the Out of the Box Facebook page of the group moving or its current location, though there was a plea for $350 in donations to pay a delinquent water bill with the city of Inverness.
Out of the Box, which has been court-ordered evicted from three locations this year, received a key from a former tenant, who was acting on FDOT’s behalf. The state planned to issue a lease to Schweickert, but held back after Out of the Box was unable to receive city water due to the unpaid bill.
Plus, the city informed FDOT officials that the city code disallows overnight dog kennels in a commercial district. While there is a process to seek a special exception to that rule, FDOT officials decided instead to cancel the lease, assistant city manager Eric Williams said.
FDOT officials arrived at the site Tuesday, and requested Citrus County Sheriff’s deputies and animal control officers with help in removing animals, according to a sheriff’s office incident report.
Animal control director Lora Peckham told the FDOT officials that this was a civil matter since the state gave Schweickert access to the property prior to the start of the lease. She said the county could not assist with removing animals unless FDOT had begun formal eviction procedures, the report states.
The report states Schweickert understood that FDOT planned to evict him.
Since late last year, the city of Inverness, and property owners in Floral City and Lecanto have gone to court to evict Out of the Box. Inverness was providing a city-owned house for free to the organization; the other property owners, like FDOT, said they allowed Schweickert on the property without a lease.