by Denise Carey-Costa
On October 14th, 2015 two dogs, both Pit Bulls were seized from their owners by Lee County Domestic Animal Services in south Florida. The dogs accidentally escaped from the home when the door was accidentally left ajar unbeknownst to their owners Michelle Westman and John Scott. During the time they were outside of the house a bite incident occurred.
The two dogs, Diamond and Titan had no prior bite history and according to the local ordinance a bite incident without history is not subject for immediate euthanasia. However, the Lee County Domestic Animal Services is not complying with this ordinance and the dogs have been imprisoned since October.
Westman and Scott were coerced into signing a surrender document for their dogs through strong-arm tactics used by the Animal Service Officer. This included keeping then separated during questioning and threatening if they did not surrender their dogs they would be arrested.
This is where the real nightmare began, not just for Michelle Westman and John Scott but for their dogs Diamond and Titan.
Titan, just fifteen months old and the smaller of the two dogs has had a tragic start in life before he has even gotten to Lee County. He was the victim of extreme physical abuse before being placed in foster care on December 28th, 2014 with Westman and Scott.
According to a veterinarian Dr. Cottrell, Titan suffers from severe hip malformation, bruising on his lumbar muscles and pelvic areas consistent with abuse by repeated blows. He had linear facial injuries consistent with being hit with a stick or riding crop and was grossly underweight, weighing only 28 pounds.
During the ten months that he lived with Westman and Scott he has been under continued treatment for Demodex mange, one of the worst cases ever seen according to Dr. Cottrell. He also requires excessive water for his diabetes and medication for his frequent urination. If he does not get the required doses of water and his medication he could die.
Since Titan was seized with Diamond, LCDAS has refused to give Westman and Scott any information about Titan’s health and refused to allow any visitation. They have also refused to accept any information about Titan’s serious medical conditions despite multiple attempts by Westman and Scott to communicate those needs to LCDAS management.
In addition to his medical conditions, Titan suffers from extreme psychological and emotional issues. When he first arrived at his foster home he was afraid to be touched, terrified of strangers, afraid to leave the house and afraid of all dogs except Diamond. He was so fearful when outside that even after ten months of constant, loving care and patience he is still not able to walk completely around the block.
The evidence obtained from LCDAS indicates that Titan is not receiving any medical care or treatment for the serious medical conditions he had when he was seized back in October of 2015 nor any treatment for any medical conditions he may have developed behind locked doors.
An anonymous person has reported to Westman that the dogs looked extremely depressed and have been deteriorating since December of 2015. They were both seen shaking and trembling in their runs.
However, LCDAS told Westman and Scott each time they made inquiries on their dogs that the dogs were fine.
And then, the inevitable happened. Diamond died while in captivity. The LCDAS veterinarian noted on Diamond’s Kennel Card on December 15, 2015 that she was bright alert and responsive and her ears, eyes, nose and throat were normal. Less than a month later Diamond was dead from Cancer that had spread through her liver and lungs.
When Westman and Scott again attempted to visit Titan and Diamond at LCDAS Director Mack Young refused to let them see the dogs nor would he give them any information about the dogs. He just kept saying both dogs were “fine” and being well cared for by LCDAS staff. Westman once again tried to tell Young both dogs had medical issues and needed regular medication yet her words fell on deaf ears. He also denied Dr. Cottrell, the dogs’ regular veterinarian to examine the dogs.
Seven days after Young claimed the dogs were fine, an anonymous insider took pictures of the dogs showing their true condition. Diamond looked extremely thin with her backbone and facial bones protruding and her abdomen abnormally distended. Prior to her seizure by LCDAS Diamond was a healthy, beautiful dog that weighed 67 pounds. The weight change and abdominal distention would have been obvious to anyone who had direct interaction with Diamond including Director Mack Young who continued to tell Westman and Scott she was fine.
On January 12th, 2016 the LCDAS veterinarian finally admitted that Diamond was very ill and suffering from Cancer which had metastasized throughout her lungs and euthanasia was recommended for Diamond. Westman and Scott filed an emergency motion with the court asking that their dog be immediately released to Dr. Cottrell’s custody so she could provide proper care and be euthanized in a caring manner in the presence of people who loved her. According to Dr. Cottrell, Diamond had been sick for a very long time, the entire time LCDAS Director Mack Young kept stating she was fine.
The county refused to release Diamond to Dr. Cottrell but did allow Diamond to be released to a Specialized Veterinary Service in Fort Myers to be euthanized with her family present. Westman and Scott were shocked when seeing their dog for the first time in three months. Not only was she filthy but her beautiful coat had changed to a dull color. She was skin and bones and had large weeping sores on her paws and legs. Westman and Scott held Diamond while she was euthanized on January 14th, 2016.
Westman and Scott are deeply concerned for Titan’s fate. It is apparent the shelter director lied to them about Diamond’s health back in December and is unlikely to tell the truth about Titan’s condition.
On February 10th,2016 attorney Wendy Smith filed an emergency motion to have Titan removed from the shelter to a secured boarding facility. A decision will not be made in this regard until all witnesses are heard. However, the judge once again denied Westman and Scott the chance to see Titan.
The motion is to move Titan from LCDAS to Academy Kennels in Fort Myers, Florida and to allow Westman and Scott to have visitation. Academy Kennels has agreed to abide by any sheltering restrictions put in place by the court and will ensure that Titan receives the proper physical and mental well-being care he requires. This is not the first time Academy Kennel has been used by LCDAS to board dogs during dangerous dog hearings and it should be no different for Titan.
There is nothing stated in the current laws that would prohibit the court from ordering LCDAS to shelter Titan in an alternative facility. So why don’t they do it?
Furthermore, Lee County’s Bite Policy revised on May 20th, 2014 only requires a dog, if seized to remain in the shelter for a ten day quarantine period. Lee County’s Animal Attack Policy revised on May 1, 2014 does not require seizure, just home confinement.
The real tragedy here is, not only has a family had to lose one dog due to neglect by LCDAS but the other dog Titan has spent the first seven months of his life suffering unspeakable abuse. He was finally starting to come around and learning to trust and be like a normal dog. His mental and physical health has already deteriorated immensely due to LCDAS refusing to accept information about his condition or administer his medications.
Westman and Scott only want a safe shelter for their dog Titan where he can receive proper medical treatment, exercise, and family visitations that are necessary for a victim of severe abuse. They want to prevent irrevocable damage to his physical and mental well-being at their own expense. Why is this being denied to them?
The treatment Diamond and Titan have received thus far in the hands of LCDAS has been deplorable and shows evidence of extreme neglect.
Diamond has already died because of this neglect.
If the county continues to drag this out it may be too late for Titan. He may become too ill to ever live a normal life with his family.
Please speak up for Titan by calling and emailing the Lee County Commissioners. Contact info can be found at http://www.leegov.com/bocc.
For updates on the case for Titan, visit the Facebook page.
This story is a reprint from Examiner.com with the author’s permission.