Manatee County judge considering fate of dogs

jdeleon@bradenton.comMarch 11, 2014 

MANATEE -- A Manatee County judge is considering the latest motion to save two dogs from being euthanized by the county.

Buck and Bill, two Australian shepherd dogs, were seized shortly after they bit a 13-year-old boy three times on Christmas Eve 2012.

Karen Erskine, the owner and a nationally ranked dog trainer, has been fighting the county's seizure of the dogs and the order to kill them.

Manatee County Judge Charles Sniffen is considering a motion for an emergency temporary injunction filed as part of a new county civil suit. The suit was filed by a trust created to protect the dogs' interest.

"We understand the judge has a broad range of options," attorney Cara Barrick said. "Our best hope is that the judge enters an order that will allow anyone other than the county shelter to care for the dogs, whether it be Karen or someone else, while the rest of the case moves through the system."

Sniffen who heard the motion Friday, could allow the case to move forward or reaffirm the order to euthanize the dogs.

Attorneys for the dogs were allowed until Monday to submit additional documents to support their case.

"We are grateful that the judge took the time to really listen to some of the issues that weren't heard prior, including that one of the dogs was taken from inside the residence without a warrant," Barrick said. "People should not expect that law enforcement is going to come in their home and take their dog."

In addition to violating the

Fourth Amendment, Barrick said the animal services officer violated other legal procedures when he entered the home, a violation of Manatee County ordinance, she said.

"They entered my home illegally," Erskine said. "This is the first time I got to tell a judge that I was on the phone with the sheriff's office on my way home. When I got there the dogs were gone.

"I have trained animal service officers and this is a big no-no," Erskine said.

On Feb. 27, Sniffen granted the dogs a five-day stay while he considered the order. On March 4, he extended the stay until further ordered by the court.

County Attorney James Minix said he thinks the court will side with the county.

"I don't expect the judge to grant it based on what the law requires," Minix said. "Once the injunction is denied the county will proceed with the order made by the hearing officer."

The county has maintained the dogs should be euthanized because they are "dangerous dogs" under state statue because of the severity of the child's injuries.

"They didn't prove anything on Friday," Minix said. "They didn't meet the requirements necessary for an emergency injunction."

Jessica De Leon, Herald law enforcement reporter, can be reached at 941-745-7049. You can follow her on Twitter @JDeLeon1012.

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