Dog shot after attacking sheriff’s horses at Gasparilla was recently adopted by man who lived in tent

8 On Your Side

Did 'paws out the door' put the public at risk?

TAMPA, Fla. (WFLA) – Just two months before it was shot to death, the Hillsborough County Pet Resource Center adopted out the dog that attacked horses carrying sheriff’s deputies at Gasparilla.

The center adopted the dog out to Ron Wessling. Wessling told 8 On Your Side that when he got Buddy in November, he lived in a tent in the woods – and still does.

That really doesn’t matter to the Pet Resource Center.

Under Director Scott Trebatoski, animals are routinely handed out to just about anyone who wants one, homeless or not.

“There is no application process, they are not screened or vetted,” animal advocate Lizanne Quinn stated.

Trebatoski’s evaluations – and ultimately, his salary – are tied to the Pet Resource Center’s live release rate.

Wessling says he was at Gasparilla all day Saturday. When the dog spotted the horses, it broke its chain. Surveillance video of the incident shows the dog repeatedly went after the horses’ feet.

A mounted deputy shot the dog, killing it.

“I can’t imagine the mayhem that would have ensued if those horses had taken off,” Quinn explained. “They could have run into crowds of people and ran over people.”

The Board of County Commissioners has for years ignored pleas by animal advocates for an application process to make sure potential adopters are vetted.

“When Ronald Wessling applied to adopt Buddy, the Pet Resource Center verified that he was not enjoined from owning animals and not on the abuse registry and that he did not have any current pet-related citations,” Mr. Trebatoski stated in an email. “As is standard policy at public pet shelters across the country, we do not do a criminal or other background check on prospective adopters. While we are aware that Wessling did not have a permanent address when he adopted Buddy, we do not reject adopters for that reason alone. That policy also is standard practice at public pet shelters across the country.”

Advocates say the Pet Resource Center’s “paws out the door” policy put the public at risk on Saturday night.

“He could not contain this dog during this tragic event and now the dog is dead and people could have died,” Lizanne Quinn said.

If you know of something that you think should be investigated, call our 8 On Your Side helpline at 1-800-338-0808 or email Steve Andrews at


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Clear The Shelters

Shelters near you

TAMPA, Fla. (WFLA) - Thousands of pets are looking for their forever homes and News Channel 8 is On Your Side helping to make that happen in the Tampa Bay area.

We are teaming up with hundreds of shelters across the country to host Clear the Shelters, a nationwide pet adoption drive from Aug. 1 through Aug. 31, featuring virtual pet adoptions to make it easy for people to donate online to participating shelters and rescues.

More than 150,000 pets found their forever homes since 2015 and we want to add to the number.

Find a shelter near you:

  • Pasco County Animal Services, 19640 Dogpatch Lane, Land O'Lakes
  • Paw Warriors, Inc., 355 Spring Time Street, Spring Hill
  • Pinellas County Animal Services, 12450 Ulmerton Road, Largo
  • Cat Haven Rescue, Inc, 1231 Bruce B. Downs Blvd, Wesley Chapel
  • Cat Haven Rescue, Inc - Pasco, 8529 Little Road, New Port Richey
  • SPCA Tampa Bay, 9099 130th Ave N, Largo
  • Bishop Animal Shelter SPCA of Manatee County, 5718 21st Ave West, Bradenton
  • Hernando County Animal Services, 19450 Oliver Street, Brooksville
  • SPCA Florida, 5850 Brannen Rd S, Lakeland
  • Barking Out Loud Rescues, Inc, 300 N Lake Drive, Lorida
  • Precious Paws Rescue, Inc., Citrus County Florida, 5164 S. Florida Avenue, Inverness
  • Humane Society of Pinellas, 3040 State Road 590, Clearwater
  • Hernando County SPCA, 9075 Grant St, Brooksville
  • St Francis Society, PO Box 261614, Tampa
  • Humane Society of Tampa Bay, 3607 N Armenia Avenue, Tampa
  • Rebels Rescue, Petco 136 S. West shore Blvd, Tampa
  • SPCA Suncoast, 7734 Congress Street, New Port Richey
  • Friends of Strays Animal Shelter, 2911 47th Avenue North, St. Petersburg
  • Florida English Bulldog Rescue, P.O. Box 754, Odessa
  • The Humane Society of Polk County, Inc, 3195 Dundee Rd, Winter Haven
  • The Humane Society of Sarasota County, 2331 15th Street, Sarasota
  • Hands Helping Paws Rescue Inc., 53 W Bay Blvd S, Lake Wales
  • Humane Society of Manatee County, 2515 14th Avenue W, Bradenton
  • Highlands County Sheriffs Animal Services, 7300 Haywood Taylor Blvd, Sebring
  • Manatee County Animal Services, 305 25th St W, Palmetto
  • SPCA Suncoast, 7734 Congress Street, New Port Richey
  • Citrus County Animal Services, 4030 S. Airport Rd, Inverness
  • St Francis Society, PO Box 261614, Tampa
  • SPCA Tampa Bay, 9099 130th Ave N, Largo
  • Polk County Sheriff's Office Animal Control, 7115 De Castro Rd, Winter Haven
  • The Greener Side Haven, Inc., 3892 N Lecanto Hwy, Beverly Hills
  • Humane Society at Lakewood Ranch, 26920 Gopher Hill Road, Myakka City

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