Two Manatee dogs will be euthanized today - WJBF-TV ABC 6 Augusta-Aiken

Two Manatee dogs will be euthanized today

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A Manatee County judge has ruled that two dogs that were held for more than a year will be put to death. Facebook photo A Manatee County judge has ruled that two dogs that were held for more than a year will be put to death. Facebook photo

Despite last minute pleas from across the country, two Manatee County Australian Shepherds will be euthanized Thursday.

A Manatee County judge has ordered that two dogs, taken from their owner more than a year ago, must now be put to death.

Owner Karen Erskine says in December 2012, her Australian Shepherd dogs, Buck and Bill, escaped from her Manatee County home and bit a 13-year-old boy in the leg and attacked another neighbor as well.

Animal services confiscated the dogs and had planned to return them to the owner days later, but the boy's family filed a lawsuit, and later the county decided to put them to death.

Manatee County Animal Services decided to put the dogs down after the attack, but the owner has been fighting it in court ever since.

However, Erskine learned the dogs will be put down after all, a decision ruled by a Manatee County Judge on Wednesday.

"I had never been separated from my dogs in my life. That's what I have left after my divorce, that's my family,” said Erskine.

Erskine has waged a legal battle to get them back. She does not feel the boy's injuries warranted a death sentence, and she's been unhappy with how the dogs have been treated under county care.

"I think my dogs have to die to cover up all the mistakes that they've made all the way up," Erskine said.

Erskine was joined by a small group of supporters. She wanted to spend time with the dogs to say goodbye on Wednesday but she wasn't allowed inside the shelter.

Manatee County Animal Services was closed on Wednesday and deputies combed the grounds. A county spokesperson says it was for the safety of the workers.

"They locked us out of the shelter and everything; we can't get into the shelter,” said one woman.

“This is the saddest scene I’d ever seen in my whole life,” said another woman.

“I was promised once again that I could be with them. I could make arrangements with my vet to be with them on their last day and have their remains, and now they’ve denied me access to see them and they’ve shut the whole facility down,” Erskine said. But she doesn't feel like she lost.

"I intend to see that this never happens to anyone again in Manatee County. That no other dog has to suffer like this,” she said. "We're not about hurting people, we're about changing policy. So if I don't have the courage to stand here and talk to you then Buck and Bill die for nothing."

News Channel 8 tried to reach someone from the county but no one was willing to speak. However, county attorneys are reviewing the judge's decision.

A county spokesperson said they expect to release a statement sometime soon, and they will let us know if and when the dogs are put to death.

A vigil was held outside Manatee County Animal Services Wednesday night.  Supporters lined the gate with dog toys and signs begging to save Buck and Bill.

The court order says Erskine will be permitted to spend no more than 30-minutes with the dogs Thursday.  Her personal vet has been authorized to put the dogs down, as long as he does it by 11:59 p.m. on Thursday.

More than 16,000 people have signed an online petition to save the dogs.  A Facebook page created in their honor has more than 10,000 likes.

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