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Family's pit bulls euthanized

They were deemed dangerous under animal control rules.

Published March 20, 2007


LARGO - Ken O'Keefe said he's been struggling with how to tell his 6-year-old daughter, Aleah, that the family's two pet pit bullterriers have been euthanized.

"I'm going to tell her that Rusty and Bonita went to heaven. I mean, what do you say? She's going to be hurt. She doesn't even understand death yet," he said.

After losing a motion on Friday that challenged portions of the county's animal-control ordinances that O'Keefe believes are inconsistent, the dogs were euthanized Saturday by Pinellas County Animal Services - two days earlier than O'Keefe had expected after the judge's final order.

Animal Services declared the dogs dangerous in 2004, after the dogs escaped from O'Keefe's home through an unlocked door. Several neighbors came forward to complain the dogs were acting aggressively. One man was bit by Rusty, and another man froze atop a ladder to evade the dogs.

O'Keefe and his attorney waged a legal battle that lasted for 21/2 years to have the dogs released.

But the county maintains the dogs were correctly classified as dangerous because they approached people in a "menacing fashion or apparent attitude of attack."

Dr. Welch Agnew, assistant director of Animal Services, said it's rare for animal services to use that part of the code to declare a dog dangerous.

However, in addition to the bite Rusty inflicted, several people signed sworn statements saying they were in fear of O'Keefe's dogs that day, Agnew said.

O'Keefe said that the dogs shouldn't have been euthanized until Monday, per the judge's orders. But Agnew said the department could have put the dogs to sleep as soon as the order was released on Friday.

"We could've euthanized them at that time but we wanted to give (O'Keefe) time to come and see them one last time and we did that," Agnew said.

Agnew said that Animal Services will release the dog's remains to O'Keefe if he requests them.

O'Keefe said Monday he planned to tell Aleah about the dogs later that day, when she had expected to visit the dogs again.

[Last modified March 19, 2007, 22:37:59]

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