Katrina Evacuees Try to Get Dogs Back
Jul. 06, 2006
CLEARWATER, Fla. (AP) _ A New Orleans couple who left their two dogs at a shelter when fleeing Hurricane Katrina went to court to get the pets back from two women who each adopted one.
A judge set a Tuesday hearing to try to determine the rightful owners of the St. Bernard and the shepherd mix originally owned by Steven and Dorreen Couture.
The Coutures left the dogs at a temporary animal shelter in Louisiana in August after their home was ``virtually destroyed'' by Katrina, according a complaint filed in state court last Friday.
The complaint claims negligence by the Humane Society of Pinellas, which helped rescue the dogs and then placed them with the women in Florida who are now refusing to return them.
``The Coutures have always been the owners,'' said Murray B. Silverstein, the St. Petersburg lawyer representing the family, which now lives in Talisheek, La.
Pam Bondi, a Hillsborough County prosecutor who adopted the St. Bernard, has said the dog was dying when she took him and she saved his life, an assertion disputed by the Coutures. Rhonda Rineker of Dunedin, who adopted the shepherd mix, hasn't talked publicly about the dispute.
The Coutures went to court after several attempts to speak with Bondi and Rineker about the dogs, including a trip to Florida last week.
``My clients do not want a battle and were very reluctant to enter litigation,'' Silverstein said. ``They just want their dogs back.''