BROOKSVILLE - Despite last-minute pleas for a stay of execution, time ran out for Rocky the Great Dane on Wednesday morning. The dog, who was turned over to Hernando County Animal Services on June 1 by a fearful owner, was euthanized around 8:45 a.m., said Hernando County Community Relations Coordinator and Public Information Officer Brenda Frazier.
Frazier said Rocky passed away peacefully, and, like all other procedures at HCAS, was sedated before he was euthanized by an injection.
Frazier called Rocky's story "unfortunate," and reinforced that animal services staff are humane and respectful and showed Rocky a "lot of love" at the end of his life.
Amy Rainoshek, an animal advocate from Texas and an integral member of the movement to save Rocky, said the group's last effort was to offer about $2,000 to the dog's former owner, Tara Coburn Cornell, or Hernando County Animal Services.
Rainoshek said a representative from a state college in Pennsylvania offered to fly Rocky to the university for rehabilitation and care and pledged about half of the money offered.
Rainoshek said no one returned her emails or calls regarding the money.
"I work with a lot of shelters and rescues and never saw one so unwilling to turn over an animal," Rainoshek said.
Rainoshek said about $1,000 was raised for Rocky's legal fees, but since attorney Dawn Berlanga-Helms took on the case pro-bono, the money will go toward animal rescue in Rocky's memory.
When asked about the money pledged to save Rocky, Frazier said the monetary offer didn't change the agreement between the previous owner and the county.
"We honored the contract with the owner and the dog was euthanized in a very humane fashion," Frazier said.
Rainoshek said she is working on rescuing two other Great Danes, and one is a puppy originally listed on Craigslist in Jacksonville who needs medical attention. She hopes Hernando County will review its animal policies.
Emails sent to Hernando County in support of saving Rocky were accessed by a public records request.
Ruth Potter, a 31-year resident of Hernando County, wrote "the business with Animal Services has to be one of the worst to date."
"You have several rescue groups willing to take this dog and work with him or keep him in their care forever," Potter wrote. Potter asked the owner and county to reconsider Rocky's euthanasia.
"I do not believe that the so called behavior eval on Rocky was done correctly and this is why it was done so wrong. People at shelter do not know how to handle a scared dog."
Pamela Johnson from Ocala wrote "How can he get a death sentence when so many believe in him and are willing to put their heart and soul into this precious babe!"
Sherry Eaton said Rocky's story was starting to receive national attention and asked the county to "do the right thing." Eaton also said Rocky's "issues" were with men and not women, and questioned why Rocky's independent investigation was performed by a male behaviorist.
Berlanga-Helms told Hernando Today on Tuesday that she personally selected John McGrath to perform the evaluation because of his experience with large breeds, especially Great Danes. McGrath evaluated Rufus, a beagle Berlanga-Helms recently saved from euthanasia in Orlando.