The case of Bill & Buck has gone from bad to worse. Their health conditions have deteriorated, and Manatee County Animal Services, under whose care they are supposed to be, ignore these issues. They have also just banned owner Karen Erskine from visiting.
The two Australian shepherds, who attacked and bit 13-year-old Justin Curtis last December, have been sentenced to death because of the “serious injury,” they caused, which by Florida law may be something as small as two stitches (sutures). Karen is in the process of appealing their sentence, which is very difficult because of Florida state law.
The attack was an isolated incident. The dogs had been provoked the day prior by a neighborhood break-in. There is no official documentation by a certified dog behavior expert examining the dogs and declaring them dangerous (they are considered so only because of the sutures Justin required). They are income-producing working dogs and have worked in canine therapy settings. But according to Hearing Officer Douglas A. Peebles, Esquire, all of this has “no relevance whatsoever.”
Since the boys have been quarantined, they have begun suffering from a number of health issues: pressure ulcers (due to spending all their time on concrete floors), bacterial infections, mange, feces-matted fur (due to lack of access to the outdoors to relieve themselves), risk of deep vein thrombosis (DVT) and tumors which were only eyeballed by county-paid veterinarian Dr. Berglund and said to be benign. This vet said 10 days ago that everything “appeared normal” and that they were in “great condition.”
Because the status of the case is open, the Sheriff’s Department of Manatee County refuses to investigate the animal abuse that is happening under their own jurisdiction, as does state attorney Lisa Chittaro, who claims to have “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].
This writer contacted Chittaro and received no response, but also the Manatee County Government’s webage to ask why the dogs were not being cared for, and was met with this canned response:
“Thank you for your e-mail concerning the two impounded Australian shepherds, Buck and Bill. Please note that this case is a pending legal matter and during the appeals process the dogs are being quarantined in a safe and humane manner, as required by Florida Statute 767.13.
For further reading on the matter, please read Attachment 1, the January, 2013 Hearing Officer’s Order involving the dogs; Attachment 2, a November, 2013 veterinary examination that found both dogs in “great condition;” and Attachment 3, a document retracting a separate affidavit stating the family wishes for the dogs to be returned to their owner. In other words, the victim’s family never stated that the dogs should be returned to their owner.
Manatee County Animal Services will continue to quarantine the dogs in a safe and humane manner until the appeals process is complete, at which time it will carry out the final court’s ruling. Beyond this e-mail Manatee County Government and Manatee County Commissioners are advised not to comment on the case.
This was posted on Buck & Bill’s Facebook page yesterday:
“Good News, then VERY BAD NEWS: Buck and Bill were allowed to see a private veterinarian (good!), then suddenly they were both scooped off of the post-surgery floor and taken (while still sedated) from the vet by Manatee County Animal Services. A few minutes after this horrific act transpired, Karen (the owner) was telephoned by Animal Services and told that she is banned from Animal Services property and cannot go anywhere near Buck and Bill (VERY BAD NEWS!). Who will administer their post-surgery medications now? Are they even still alive? Today the vet discovered an ailment for practically every week they’ve been at MCAS – mange, open wounds on nose/mouth/legs/belly, huge tumors on legs/penis/scrotum, overweight, matted feces, bacterial infections, and the list goes on! Yet the governmental protections, and animal abuse laws made for abused animals like Buck and Bill are ignored by the State Attorney’s office and Manatee County Sheriff. Who will step up to keep these dogs alive pending the outcome of their civil litigation? More importantly, is seven stitches worth all of this inhumanity?”
It seems that everyone who is supposed to have some authority in this case is shifting responsibility or covering for others, and nothing is being done about Bill and Buck’s care. Staff at MCSA assert that the dogs are being well-cared for, but the photos clearly contradict that. And now with Karen being banned, no one will be giving any care to the dogs. Please help Karen fight for their lives and their care.
To report abuse or neglect to the SPCA, please click here.
To ask for local news coverage of the story by My Fox, Tampa Bay, click here.
To contact Inside Edition, click here.
To contact state attorney Lisa Chittaro, click here.
To contact Manatee County’s commissioners to ask why the dogs are not receiving proper care (beds, medical treatment and access to the outdoors), and why Karen has been banned from seeing her dogs, email:
To contact the Manatee County Government’s webpage, click here.
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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.
PLEASE SHARE AND GET THE WORD OUT THERE, SO KAREN’S BABIES AREN’T EXECUTED!
The following are the most recent photos of Bill and Buck, which show matting, mange, and injuries to their noses, which may be the result of chemical cleaners being used in their cell while the dogs are present.