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NEWS FROM THE FLORIDA DEMOCRATIC PARTYFor Immediate Release: October 27, 2010
Hurricane Katrina victim shares personal story into Bondi’s use of court system to block return of family pet
The Florida Democratic Party today released a two-minute ad featuring a story told in the words of a Louisiana family on their personal experience with Republican Attorney General candidate Pam Bondi and her attempts to block efforts to reunite the family with their displaced dog. The story that captured the attention of national news in 2006 focused on Pam Bondi’s extreme efforts to manipulate the legal system to obstruct the Couture family from having their family dog return home. 
“The story shared by Dorreen Couture about Pam Bondi’s abuse of the legal system raises serious judgment questions,” said Florida Democratic Party Chair Karen Thurman. “Ms. Couture’s personal story of her experience with Pam Bondi’s use of the court system to block the return of their family pet is outrageous and should leave Floridians questioning if Pam Bondi has the character to lead our state as Attorney General.”
A court battle waged by Pam Bondi followed after the family discovered that their family pet, Master Tank was sent to a Pinellas County Animal Shelter following Hurricane Katrina. For over a year, Bondi used the court system to keep two young kids from their dog. The case, which was heading to trial ended with Bondi settling with the Couture family on the return of the dog. 
Thurman added, “Ms. Bondi seeks to be the chief legal officer of Florida. Floridians really deserve to have a sense of how she exploited the legal system to determine whether she has the judgment to make some of the most important decisions facing our state. And after hearing the story told in the words of Ms. Couture, Floridians are left questioning whether Ms. Bondi can be trusted to exercise sound judgment as Attorney General.”

The only thing [my grandchildren] have is these dogs and us.” Steven Couture, with cameras pointing at him, said Tuesday he is a carpenter who is neither wealthy nor poor. He said his two grandchildren have lost their parents and their home in the past several years “The only thing they have is these dogs and us. … They want the dogs back. It should have never happened,” he said. His grandson looked up at him and asked: “Are we going to get the dogs back?” [“Family pleads to reclaim pets,” SPT, 6/28/06]
“I’m making a plea…Please give me my dogs back.” “Steven and Dorreen Couture sat before reporters Tuesday, trying to put a child’s face on their Hurricane Katrina saga. On their laps sat their 7-year-old granddaughter Cassidy and 4-year-old grandson Steven. After months of e-mails, phone calls and interviews, the Coutures drove two days from the New Orleans area to plead for their dogs, Master Tank, the St. Bernard, and Nila, the shepherd mix. “I’m making a plea,” Steven Couture said as his grandson twisted and turned in his lap. “Please give me my dogs back.”” [“Family pleads to reclaim pets,” SPT, 6/28/06]
Dorreen Couture: “You can’t just take another family’s dog.” “In one local case, a prosecutor for the Hillsborough State Attorney’s Office, Pam Bondi, adopted a St. Bernard from the humane society in October after fostering him for 30 days. Bondi had recently lost her own St. Bernard, Donovan, to cancer. Turns out the dog was owned by Steven and Dorreen Couture of St. Bernard Parish, who had lost track of the animal, named Master Tank, in the confused aftermath of Katrina. Bondi has declined to give Master Tank back, saying the Coutures had not cared for him properly. The couple have retained a lawyer. They say they will get Master Tank returned and are considering filing criminal charges against the Humane Society. ‘I understand Pam Bondi has lost her St. Bernard,’ Dorreen Couture said. ‘But you can’t just take another family’s dog.'” [SPT, 6/7/06]
Judge doesn’t buy Bondi’s “different dog” argument. “A Louisiana couple fighting to regain custody of a St. Bernard and a shepherd mix they lost after Hurricane Katrina won a legal battle Monday. But they still don’t have the dogs, adopted separately by two Tampa Bay area women. A state judge wasn’t swayed by the toenail argument put forth by Pam Bondi, a Hillsborough prosecutor who adopted the St. Bernard. Bondi had argued that her dog still has all its toenails, but Steven and Dorreen Couture’s St. Bernard had a toenail removed after its rescue. After hearing from a veterinarian and others, however, Pasco-Pinellas Circuit Judge Henry J. Andringa said the evidence showed clearly and convincingly that the St. Bernard Bondi has is the one the Coutures lost. Andringa added that it is reasonable to presume that the Coutures will win the case. Both dogs, the judge concluded, should be returned to the Coutures pending a jury trial sometime next year. But Bondi and Rhonda Rineker, who has custody of the shepherd mix, were expected to post bonds to hang onto the dogs until the trial. Florida law allows a person to post a bond to retain disputed property.” [“Katrina dogs saga goes on,” SPT, 10/31/06]

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