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Dog euthanized after incident

A dog that dug into a fenced schoolyard and terrorized students two weeks ago was euthanized Thursday morning.

Fats, a 48-pound pit bullterrier mix, was not euthanized because of the schoolyard incident, but because her owner did not pick her up from Animal Services within an allotted time.

The owner, India Griffin of Largo, could not be reached for comment Thursday.

Fats had been placed on a 10-day quarantine after the March 7 incident to see if she had rabies. When it was determined she did not, Pinellas Animal Services officers called Griffin and told her Fats was ready to be picked up. She had 48 hours to do so, or Fats would be euthanized.

"She indicated at that time that she would come in that day," said Dr. Welch Agnew, assistant director of Animal Services.

But Griffin never showed.

"Generally, we won't keep badgering them to come pick up their dog," Agnew said.

Fats dug under a fence at Ridgecrest Elementary School, 1901 119th St. N, on March 7 as about 80 fourth- and fifth-graders prepared for physical education classes.

Fats approached the children, perhaps to play. But children ran away from her, which excited Fats. She jumped at the kids, who tried to dart away. Soon, kids were running and screaming in every direction as the agitated dog lunged at them. Officials said Fats scratched and bit at the children.

School officials evacuated the schoolyard and eventually secured Fats, but not before she scratched several children. One child suffered a minor bite mark on the back of his neck. A school worker who had tried to restrain Fats also was injured when he fell, cracking his tailbone.

Animal Services officers took Fats to their facility and began a dangerous dog investigation. Affidavits were sent to witnesses to fill out, but none had been returned as of Thursday, Agnew said.

Officers sent a warning to Griffin, but she was not cited. She was told to keep the dog secured and that Fats had shown some dangerous tendencies.

It is possible Fats would have been declared a dangerous dog at the end of the investigation, which would mean the dog would be euthanized. But Agnew didn't think that was likely.

"We don't have any indication of anything serious," he said.

Ridgecrest school officials said they were saddened to learn the dog had died.

"I hate the death of any living thing," said assistant principal Donna Benkert, who restrained Fats on March 7 by sitting on her. "I'm disappointed in the owner. I would have liked to have seen it adopted by maybe a family in a rural community."

Principal Bob Poth said students, though startled by the dog, hoped Fats would be okay.

"I know a lot of our kids at school expressed concern for the dog," he said. "Even though they were frightened that day, they still have that natural sympathy for an animal. A kid's natural instinct is to love animals. And even if it turns violent, they want to see it saved."

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