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Katrina dog shouldn't dog a Pam Bondi run for attorney general

So Pam Bondi, prosecutor, spokeswoman for the Hillsborough State Attorney's Office and legal commentator on national cable shows, sure looks like she's about to throw her name in as a candidate for Florida attorney general.

And why not? A career criminal prosecutor who is good with the press, she has trials under her belt. She's familiar with this election business, at least on the local level, having worked on other campaigns, including one for her current boss, Mark Ober.

The question is: Will the case of the Katrina dog follow her?

The answer: of course. And it's fair game, as long as we remember how it started, for the right reasons, and how it ended, with a dog going home.

Because even though Bondi regularly appears on Greta, Geraldo and Larry King to opine on the Latest Big Case, it was a dirty, skinny rescue dog left behind in the wake of the hurricane that landed her in People magazine — not to mention got people het up on both sides.

If you are a dog person, you remember in the stories of the devastation of Hurricane Katrina the ones about animals separated from their owners, lost or abandoned, some luckily rescued to other states.

I was at the Pinellas Humane Society the day Bondi went to see the St. Bernard from St. Bernard Parish she had caught on the news. I figured this could be a happy ending to one of those aforementioned terrible stories of the storm.

Who knew how tangled a well-meant gesture could get?

Trust me when I tell you this dog was not some extraneous fluff of canine arm candy to fit in a sparkly evening bag. He was maybe the saddest dog I ever saw, stinking and infected from days on his own. He had a pre-exisiting heartworm condition. Adopting this dog would be a huge and expensive undertaking. She took him home.

Months later, the Couture family from Louisiana traced their two dogs to the Pinellas shelter. When Bondi would not give back the dog she called Noah — to them, Master Tank — they sued.

Animal activists and regular folk took sides. Not give him back? How selfish, how wrong. Imagine if he were yours.

Except it was more complicated than that. Bondi worried about the heartworm damage and believed vets who said the dog would not survive a life outside. She said if she knew he would be okay, she would drive him back herself.

Keep him, others said. Do what's best for the dog.

But before a trial, the ugly mess ended peacefully, though not without tears. Bondi would send medication and food. The dog would go home.

Steven Couture said he held nothing against Bondi or the woman who adopted his other dog: "They loved the dogs just as much as we do," he told a reporter. If anything good came from that heartbreak, it was a hard look at the rules surrounding disasters and pet adoptions.

Any day now, expect Bondi to join Republicans Lt. Gov. Jeff Kottkamp, former state Rep. Holly Benson and lawyer Jim Lewis, with state Sens. Dave Aronberg and Dan Gelber on the Democrats' side.

Assuming she runs, voters should judge her — like the other candidates — on her ability and record.

The Katrina dog story? That I'll remember as an act of kindness that went wrong and ended the best it could.

Katrina dog shouldn't dog a Pam Bondi run for attorney general 11/27/09 [Last modified: Friday, November 27, 2009 10:40pm]
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