TALLAHASSEE — Reagan, the now famous dog that once belonged to Gov. Rick Scott, was banished from the Governor's Mansion after biting an employee who moved his water bowl.
"The governor and first lady love dogs, and they had to make a hard decision when it was clear that Reagan was very anxious around lots of different people,'' Scott spokeswoman Melissa Sellers said.
The dog bite occurred while the governor was in Orlando on Jan. 7, 2011, just three days after Scott took office, according to an incident report released by Scott's office late last week. Mansion grounds employee Jennifer Kinsey was arranging flowers in the mansion when Reagan bit her on the right hand, according to the incident report made by her supervisor for the Department of Management Services. The report noted that the injury was not serious and required no medical treatment.
Scott introduced the yellow Labrador to Facebook readers on Sept. 7, 2010, shortly after he won the Republican nomination and before his election in November 2010. Facebook friends chose the name Reagan from a list of three choices suggested by the campaign and applauded the candidate's decision to adopt a rescue dog.
After the bite report, Sellers said, Scott flew Reagan back to Naples on his private jet and returned the dog to All Pets Grooming and Boarding, a Collier County groomer. Owner Kelly Normand has refused to comment. Last week WTSP-Ch. 10 said she told the station that Reagan's name has been changed to Pluto and he lives on a horse ranch in Collier County, but no one at the grooming business would confirm the report.
"The family decided that the best decision for the dog and all those who visit (the Governor's Mansion) would be to have the grooming business find Reagan a more appropriate home with less people and activity,'' Sellers said. "It was a hard choice that sometimes pet owners have to make."
The Scotts have since adopted Tallee, a calmer, gentler 7-year-old yellow Lab.
Earlier this month, when first asked about the disappearance of Reagan and the appearance of Tallee, the governor's current and former staff repeatedly refused to respond. When directly asked about it a few days later, Scott said he returned the dog to previous owners because it barked a lot and frightened mansion staffers, including photographer Eric Tournay. He said the dog never bit anyone. Sellers said Scott had been out of town and did not recall the incident when he talked to reporters.
Tournay has since denied being frightened by Reagan, noting that he has owned several pit bulls.
Sellers, communications director for the governor since September, was not working for Scott during the campaign or the state when Reagan was adopted and returned. She said she was not aware of the return until the Tampa Bay Times reported it. She then asked first lady Ann Scott about the dog.
A Times story about the dog sparked an outcry from animal lovers, who were critical of Scott for promoting the adoption during the campaign and getting rid of Reagan as soon as he was elected.