MANATEE -- An emergency notice of appeal filed at 8:30 a.m. Wednesday delayed the euthanasia of two dogs set for noon in Manatee County.
Colleen Glenn filed the motion on behalf of the Lexus Project, which is representing two Australian Shepherds that bit a juvenile multiple times on Christmas Eve in the Panther Ridge subdivision in East Manatee.
The motion appeals Judge Doug Henderson's order to deny previously filed motions. On March 20, Henderson denied the motions, which were filed on March 8, stating that they "fail to raise any new factual matters or legally sufficient grounds which would support an overturning" of the recommendation for euthanasia filed Feb. 1 by a hearing officer.
"I don't know what jurisdictional basis they have for the motion to appeal," said Chief Deputy County Attorney Jim Minix. "We have suspended the euthanasia until the appeal is disposed of."
"We've decided to give the dogs every opportunity to defend themselves through their various attorneys and interested parties. Even though as this point it seems everything we're supposed to do under the law we've done."
The 6- and 10-year-old dogs, named Buck and Bill,
have been sharing a kennel at Manatee County Animal Services in Palmetto since Dec. 24, when they reportedly escaped through a window at a home and attacked a boy who was waiting in the street for the mail carrier. The boy, 13, tried to run and shield himself with his bicycle. He was assisted by a neighbor driving by the scene.
The boy sustained at least seven bites to his legs and buttocks. One bite behind his knee left muscles and nerves exposed, requiring emergency surgery at All Children's Hospital in St. Petersburg. The victim's family did not wish to comment on this story.
"The Animal Services staff, in their investigation, found that there was a severe bite that under statute required the dogs to be expeditiously and humanely destroyed," Minix said. "That was confirmed by an independent hearing officer who wrote an 11-page decision after two partial day hearings."
Henderson upheld that decision upon reviewing all exhibits, dismissing an appeal filed by Erskine.
Erskine, who was visiting with a friend when the incident occurred, has requested to return the dogs to a large, fenced property where she trains dogs in another county. Buck and Bill, who are therapy dogs, have no history of aggressive behavior. Erskine, distraught over the situation, spent Wednesday with her dogs at the humane society.
"They're not bad dogs," Glenn previously told the Bradenton Herald. "This was an isolated incident. It's sad the child got bit. I'm not saying he did anything wrong. We're just saying these dogs don't need to be killed -- there are lots of options."
According to Florida statutes, there are two options: A dog can be registered as "dangerous" or euthanized. A "dangerous" animal is quarantined for a certain period of time. This requires the owner to keep the dogs supervised and secure at a fenced-in property.
"In the current case, the dogs committed, as their first offense the infliction of severe injury, as defined by statute and ordinance, and as such, there is no option for second chance and the dogs must be humanely destroyed as the only legally available option," the recommended order states. "The fate of the dog is determined with finality the moment that the dog inflicts a severe injury or death."
Glenn said the issue has piqued the interest of many local residents and animal rights groups.
"They've been ordered to be executed," Glenn said. "Every second is really against us."
With the motion to appeal pending, the euthanasia will remain suspended as a humane and cautious effort, Minix said.
"I may file a motion to dismiss it," Minix said. "The circuit judge will look at it. At this point I'm not sure what Circuit Court will do. This is an area that we've never been before."
Elizabeth Johnson, Herald crime reporter, can be reached at 941-745-7041. Follow her on Twitter @EJohnsonBHcrime.