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 sandrews@wfla.com

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