Injustice in Manatee County: Help Save Buck & Bill
The Change.org petition needs signatures to help Karen Erskine bring home her boys, Bill and Buck, who have been sentenced to death by Manatee County in Florida because of an isolated incident. They have been kept in a concrete-floor kennel, without being allowed outside to relieve themselves and are now suffering medical problems as a result of negligence. PLEASE HELP! There is also a fundraiser to help Karen with her legal fees.
On December 24, 2012, Bill and Buck broke through a screen window of their home and began wandering the neighborhood. There had been a break-in on the street the day before, and the herding dogs were on high alert. What happens next is unsubstantiated, but 13-year-old Justin Curtis says he was riding his bike when Bill and Buck attacked and bit the back of his leg. A neighbor was able to get the dogs away from him, and was nipped. One of the dogs was taken in by animal control, and the other ran back home and climbed in through the broken window.
From the Petition for Writ of Certiorari – Karen’s appeal to the second district court of appeals: “Manatee County Law Enforcement and Animal Control authorities granted upon themselves the authority to enter Petitioner’s [Karen's] home while she was at work, search for one of the canines throughout the home, and seize the canine property without a warrant, consent, cognizable exigent circumstance, notice or hearing.”
Both dogs have been in quarantine since December 2012. They are being kept in a single-dog kennel with a concrete floor. They have no dog beds or blankets, and have developed pressure sores on their elbows which have not been treated. Bill has developed tumors on his leg, which have not been biopsied. A veterinarian apparently gave them a once-over and determined they were benign, but without a biopsy there is no way to know for sure. Bill also has an infected scrotum which has gone untreated. The kennel itself is unhygienic. The dogs are not brought outside to relieve themselves, and as a result, the floor is strewn with their feces. Being confined for long periods of time without much exercise, as evidenced by the pressure sores, can also lead to deep vein thrombosis (DVT), which can be fatal if left untreated.
The sheriff and state attorney Lisa Chittaro, who prosecutes in animal abuse cases, blatantly refuse to help in any way. Chittaro allegedly has “no authority” to do anything about Bill & Buck, and will not find someone who can.
An article was published in August by the Bradenton Herald on how the state attorneys are creating teams to fight crimes against animals and the elderly. Chittaro said animals “are part of that vulnerable group in society. We already had a division for child abuse so it was only natural for us to do one for the elderly and the animals.” However, this standard apparently does not apply to animal control officers, who are allowing animals to suffer in their own waste and become sick from neglect. Even imprisoned murderers and rapists are given cots, toilets and medical care. Why are animals in the government’s “care” being treated worse?
Her email address is: [email protected].
Other dogs in Florida, and specifically in Manatee county, have caused far more damage to people and not been sentenced to death. Justin only required seven stitches, and was outside playing shortly after the incident. The Curtises initially requested in an affidavit that Bill and Buck not be euthanized, but after speaking to a personal injury attorney withdrew the affidavit. So now Buck and Bill are on death row, and rotting away in their prison cell.
Additional information from the Change.org petition:
Buck (7 years old) and Bill (10 years old) have lived their lives as loving, intelligent, dedicated, and protective family members. Bill virtually saved the life of his owner from the assault of a sexual predator who accosted her in a shopping mall parking lot. Witnesses applauded Bill’s courage, assertiveness, and ability to control the situation without undue force. Bill also took on a pack of five wild dogs when they attacked the owner’s working horses and began to turn upon her in a remote pasture. Without his assistance, in which he sustained grievous injuries, none would have made it to safety. He even rescued the lamb you see in the above photo. Buck was born on the owner’s pillow. He was laid there by his mother, a nationally top-ranked working and ranch trial champion bred and trained by the owner herself. At the young age of 9 months Buck prevented a large flock of the owner’s sheep from escaping down an open road when a visiting neighbor forgot to secure a gate, and he did so on his own accord…seeing the incident before the owner herself was aware of the situation. He returned the flock with savvy and poise, never once unsettling even the most frightened of animals. His sweet nature, talent, and natural ability surpass even that of his mother.
For the better part of a decade both dogs have been consistent, loyal, and devoted partners. They have served in canine therapy settings, as income producing working dogs, were known as “The Joy Boys” at a Buddhist center where the owner was employed, have trotted for miles alongside the owner on horseback, and have performed brilliantly as demo dogs for the owner’s own canine training classes. Numerous affidavits presented at the original hearing which was to determine their fate gave evidence as to the temperament of the dogs, to the proficiency of the owner as a canine professional, and as to her character as a solid citizen. Time-wise the documents spanned from one to twenty five years, and they were written by residents of Kansas, Missouri, Texas, and Florida.
Buck and Bill have been sentenced to die for an extremely unfortunate incident that leaves everyone who knows them and has come to know them unsettled, perplexed, and angry at the suffering they have endured while incarcerated in a single kennel for nearly 6 months (now at Manatee County Animal Services. While it is true that a young man was bitten, there is more to the story than mere dog aggression. To many who have reviewed the case, it is obvious that the dogs were in a protective mode and were provoked in some manner to a degree of high anxiety that caused them to leave a residence in which they were secured and extremely comfortable. In the one and a half years they had visited the neighborhood and stayed in this home, there was never before an incident with these dogs. That the boy involved was injured was an accident, even the father said as much on a national news broadcast, and he also stated that this was a “forgive and forget” situation. The owner herself testified that something caused the dogs to be on high alert the day previous to the incident and at approximately the same time of day that the incident occurred, but this was passed over at the hearing. The dogs perceived a threat of some type, photos of the residence inside and the damaged window give evidence of this, but again this was barely considered at the hearing. The sheriff’s department deputy at the scene on the night of the incident said the back door of the house was not secured, which was wrong according to the owner of the dogs. Later in that week a neighboring house was broken into and a deputy placed on patrol in the neighborhood, but no new investigation was allowed as to what might have happened on the afternoon of the incident. During the course of the appeal proceedings in which the fate of the dogs was decided, the attorney representing the family of the boy injured signed a sworn affidavit. It was filed with the court, and it attested that the wishes of the family were that the dogs “NOT BE euthanized” and should be released to their owner. No legal document filed with the court rescinds this position. The owner’s personal residence and facility passed rigorous inspected by Sumter County Animal Services, and this agency stated that all requirements of the Florida statutes pertaining to maintaining and securing the dogs were not only met but exceeded. Sumter County’s requirements are more extensive than those of Manatee County, and these were met as well.
Manatee County has continued to ignore common sense in this case. Even after nearly half a year the county maintains that these two exceptional dogs must die. They are suffering, not even allowed to urinate or defecate outside of a kennel built to house one dog for a limited duration. Despite the fact that a Manatee County approved boarding and training facility has offered to house the dogs humanely during the proceedings, the County maintains that this gesture requires yet another court order. The owner has to drive over 225 miles every week just to get the dogs outdoors to exercise, relieve themselves naturally, and get some fresh air. The intent behind the Florida statute is that the dogs be released to their owner unless that individual cannot or will not pay the fines and/or properly maintain the dogs in the future. Moreover, the statute clearly allows dogs classified as dangerous (even those that have inflicted damage) to live…they can even compete in legally sanctioned agility, herding, obedience, conformation, and field trials. Thus the owner is neither deprived of property nor pursuit of personal freedoms, and the dogs are allowed to have a life under proper management.
Manatee County appears not to care about spending a fortune to kill two dogs when banishment to another county is a perfectly acceptable and lawful option, one previously utilized in similar cases throughout Florida and across the country. So why does this insanity continue? It is simple…it all comes down to fear and finances. Manatee County fears some future, non-existent lawsuit, even though no other dogs deemed “dangerous” and released to their owners have ever created a problem in the history of Manatee County. These dogs all reside within Manatee County.
Please sign this petition and help save Buck and Bill, two very wonderful and much-loved dogs who deserve to live. By doing so, you tell Manatee County that you do not approve of the costly and inhumane course of action taken against these dogs, you do not believe that these dogs should be euthanized, and you do believe that they should be returned to their owner. Remember too that this case may very well set a precedent for the future. Saving the life of Buck and Bill may very well prevent any other dogs from being kept in deplorable conditions without any hope of quick relief other than death while their cases are drug through the legal system.
Thank you for your time and consideration in this matter and for your support. May God bless you!
The affidavit requesting the dogs not be euthanized, along with its withdrawal:
The LEXUS Project has become involved in this case, as they did for Phineas, Chloe and a number of other dogs who have been unfairly sentenced to death.
Lexus Project Team Statement: Currently, there are four bite dogs that have been released back to their owners in Manatee County. All of them attacked people. Why Manatee has chosen Buck and Bill to focus on, we do not know. What we do know is that the Lexus Project will work very hard to save Buck and Bill. Unfortunately, Ms. Erskine has had a long hard fight. In the mean time, I encourage you to read the fact section of the “Recommended Order.” Especially page 5, the first sentence of the last paragraph and page 2, section 1(b) where the hearing officer claims that Karen “accepted all of the County’s facts and states that they are “uncontroverted.” No single fact or argument made on behalf of these dogs was accepted by the Hearing Officer – instead he claims that she admitted her own dogs were dangerous. If that were true, why would she have asked for a hearing in the first place? The hearing officer, who is an attorney and is unfamiliar with the law, basically misunderstood the purpose of that hearing, effectively denying Karen the benefit of her Due Process rights.
To contact the Manatee County Government, click here.
For those having issues signing the petition, this is the response received from Change.org:
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In addition, if they did not receive a “thank you for signing” email, that means that their signature did not successfully post. If they have any questions or need assistance in troubleshooting, please send them our [Save Buck & Bill From Being Killed's] way, we will gladly help them.
For more information and updates, please visit the Facebook page Save Buck & Bill From Being Killed.
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Below are photos of Buck and Bill in their unsanitary kennel. Their neglect is leading to medical problems, such as pressure ulcers (bed sores) on their elbows, and an inflamed scrotum and untreated tumors on Bill.