'I'm never giving up' dogs

By Times Staff Writer
Published January 30, 2007

The legal saga over ownership of two dogs that were rescued after Hurricane Katrina and adopted returned to court Monday, with the sides trying to resolve several issues before the scheduled April trial.

By day's end, Circuit Judge Henry Andringa dismissed one claim by the defense and is expected to rule on other motions in the next few days.

Steven and Dorreen Couture, of St. Bernard Parish, La., sued in July to reclaim two dogs displaced during the hurricane and adopted by Hillsborough prosecutor Pam Bondi and Rhonda Rineker of Dunedin. The Coutures eventually tracked the dogs - a St. Bernard and a shepherd mix - to the Tampa Bay area. But by then, Bondi had adopted the St. Bernard and Rineker the shepherd mix.

The Coutures were in court Monday, making the trip from Louisiana with their two grandchildren. "I never expected this to go on like this," Steven Couture said after the hearing. "But I'm never giving up. They're my dogs."