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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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 on Saturday, August 17, 2019, to help find loving homes for animals in need.

More than 150,000 pets found their forever homes since 2015.

Now is the time for shelters to register by completing the online application located here. Organizations interested in participating in Clear the Shelters must complete the Commitment Registration form to ensure proper verification of all interested participants.

When registering, please make sure you select the TAMPA-ST.PETERSBURG-SARASOTA, FL region. This will put your shelter on our CLEAR THE SHELTERS online map, driving families to your shelter. 

Here are the local shelters that are offering no-cost or reduced-fee adoptions for this event:

  1. Citrus County Animal Services - 4030 S. Airport Rd, Inverness
  2. Humane Society of Polk County - 3195 Dundee Road Winter, Haven
  3. Barking Out Loud Rescue, Inc - 300 N Lake Drive, Lorida
  4. Paw Warriors, Inc. - 355 Spring Time Street, Spring Hill
  5. SPCA Florida - 5850 Brannen Rd S, Lakeland
  6. Friends of Strays Animal Shelter - 2911 47th Avenue North, St. Petersburg
  7. Pinellas County Animal Services - 12450 Ulmerton Road, Largo
  8. SPCA of Hernando County - 9075 Grant St, Brooksville
  9. Humane Society of Tampa Bay - 3607 N Armenia Avenue, Tampa
  10. SPCA Tampa Bay - 9099 130th Ave North, Largo
  11. Highlands County Sheriffs Animal Services - 7300 Haywood Taylor Blvd, Sebring
  12. St. Francis Animal Rescue - 1925 S. Tamiami Trail, Venice
  13. FLUFF Animal Rescue - 11220 Park Blvd N, Seminole
  14. Manatee County Animal Services: Palmetto Shelter - 305 25th St W, Palmetto
  15. Manatee County Cat Town - 216 6th Ave E, Bradenton
  16. Pasco County Animal Services - 19640 Dogpatch Lane, Land O'Lakes
  17. St. Francis Society, Inc. - Pet Smart - 12835 Citrus Plaza Dr, Tampa
  18. The Humane Society of the Nature Coast - 7200 Mobley Road, Brooksville
  19. Hillsborough County Pet Resource Center - 440 N. Falkenburg Road, Tampa
  20. Humane Society of Manatee County - 2515 14th Street W, Bradenton
  21. Save Our Strays Inc. Safety Harbor, FL - 3223 San Jose Street, Clearwater
  22. Polk County Sheriff's Office Animal Control Section - 7115 De Castro Rd, Winter Haven
  23. Hernando County Animal Services - 19450 Oliver St., Brooksville
  24. Bishop Animal Shelter SPCA of Manatee County, FL - 5718 21st Ave W, Bradenton
  25. Humane Society of Pinellas, 3040 State Road 590, Clearwater
  26. Rescue Cats of Florida, 211 West Alexander Street, Plant City
  27. Precious Paws Rescue, 5164 S. Florida Avenue (Route 41), Inverness
  28. Hands Helping Paws Rescue, 53 West Bay Boulevard South, Lake Wales
  29. Cat Kids Rescue, 10500 Ulmerton Road, Suite 308, Largo
  30. Suncoast Animal League, 1030 Pennsylvania Ave., Palm Harbor
  31. Cat Haven Rescue of Tampa-Pasco County, 1231 Bruce B. Downs Blvd., Wesley Chapel
  32. Cat Haven Rescue of Pasco County, 8529 Little Road, New Port Richey
  33. Suncoast Humane Society, 6781 San Casa Drive, Englewood
  34. Rebels Rescue, 11665 W Hillsborough Ave., Tampa
  35. Humane Society at Lakewood Ranch, 26920 Gopher Hill Road, Myakka city
  36. Cat Crusaders, Inc, 6248 Commerce Palms Drive, Tampa
  37. SPCA Suncoast, 7734 Congress Street, New Port Richey
  38. Rescue Cats of Florida, 3313 Lithia Pinecrest Road, Valrico
  39. Countless Cats Rescue Inc., 3139 Duane Avenue, Oldsmar
  40. Cat Call Inc, Pet Smart 1051 W Brandon Blvd, Brandon
  41. Cat Call Inc, 11331 Causeway Blvd, Brandon

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