THE ISSUE: Tony the dog.

OUR OPINION: The pet owner made the appropriate choice to euthanize.

Tony the dog lived confined to a cage at Citrus County Animal Services for 17 months — alone and away from basic necessities like walks and play time — that’s no life for a dog.

Caught in limbo due to lengthy court processes, the dog who attacked his owner Judy Brower in February 2018, met his end June 27 when a senior court judge ruled Brower his rightful owner (Saturday, June 29, page A1). While the decision to euthanize Tony was not easy, ultimately, it was the proper thing for Brower to do.

In early 2018, the 6-year-old mix breed was transferred from Pasco County Animal Shelter to Out of the Box Animal Rescue Inc., an Inverness-based rescue run by Robert Schweikert Jr.

Brower, of Inverness, adopted Tony from Out of the Box. According to county records, two weeks later, Brower was walking Tony when he became aggressive toward another dog walking on the same street. When Brower shielded Tony from the dog, Tony attacked her.

From that point on, Tony was the subject of an ongoing court process that should have never taken so long to resolve. He was living in shameful conditions, unable to walk his feet through grass or take a run for nearly a year and a half.

Tony’s torture was preventable. Schweikert appealed to regain control of Tony, claiming he should have been returned to the rescue after the attack. Yet Schweikert clearly wasn’t Tony’s owner anymore after Brower adopted him from Out of the Box.

The court process resulting from Schweikert’s multiple appeals was the cause of Tony’s long-term confinement. In cases where there are no appeals, dogs deemed dangerous by the county can be euthanized rather quickly. The county labeled Tony dangerous shortly after the attack; Brower asked that he be euthanized following the incident.

Yet, Schweikert continued to fight to regain possession of Tony.

Tony could no longer be adopted out; he attacked someone. So where could he go? Out of the Box Rescue has no permanent location, and has been evicted from four properties this year alone. The only other option was for Tony to be held at the county shelter.

The due process of the court system worked against the compassionate care of an animal in this case. The county could not risk the safety of their employees and volunteers to care for Tony properly, and he couldn’t be released to Out of the Box to be adopted again.

At the end of the day, not every dog is made to be domesticated and some are a danger to humans. That’s reality.

Brower made the right choice to euthanize Tony after almost a year and a half of solitary confinement. He could not be trusted to refrain from attack again, he had nowhere stable to live and would only continue to suffer under the hands of humans attempting to manage him. He was tired, beat down and Brower exercised her right of ownership in compassionately euthanizing him. She was brave for doing so.

In future cases, the county should consider Tony’s plight and work diligently with the court system to speed up the process of dangerous dogs caught up in the appeal process. It’s the humane thing to do.

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