A Tampa pet boarding facility is asking for at least $5,000 in damages from former Tampa Bay Buccaneers player Michael Bennett, claiming the athlete abandoned his dog there in March.
In a Hillsborough County lawsuit, Lucky Dog Daycare and Resort of South Tampa, of 1116 W. Fig St., claims Bennett caused the 4-month-old boxer named Koa to have an emotional breakdown that destroyed its health.
Bennett, a defensive end, signed a $5 million free-agent contract March 15 to play for the Seattle Seahawks, who are now preparing for the NFC championship game. He played for the Bucs from 2009 to 2012.
In January, Bennett and his wife, Pele, signed an agreement with the pet facility and boarded the puppy there for 32 days, paying $631 for services, the suit claims. The Bennetts brought the brown boxer back to Lucky Dog in March for additional boarding but never returned to retrieve the pet, the lawsuit said.
The lawsuit said the puppy “languished” over several months and was so distraught that it developed poor eating habits, lost fur and was “clearly failing to thrive.” The puppy was not neutered and could not mix with “social groups” at the kennel and was bored, the owners claimed.
Mark Aubin, the attorney representing Lucky Dog owners Mike Hardy and Jack Hamilton, said the facility made several efforts to contact the Bennetts since they moved to Washington state. In those emails, Pele Bennett said arrangements were being made, but the suit claims the dog was never retrieved.
The lawsuit includes copies of several emails between the parties regarding the balance and that the facility would take ownership of the animal if the bill wasn’t paid. On June 24, a letter from the facility to the Bennetts said they owed $3,457 for services including staff, food, housing and veterinary care.
On Aug. 2, the facility said it contacted Florida Boxer Rescue, which agreed to provide a foster home for Koa until a permanent home was found. The dog now has new owners, who call him Quigley.
“Florida Boxer Rescue provided Quigley with his new home,” Aubin said. “Yes, he is thriving now. You can’t see his ribs anymore and he is a very social, beautiful boxer. ... It’s been an amazing turnaround.”
An attempt to reach Bennett through the Seahawks’ public relations department was unsuccessful. In November, Bennett told TMZ Sports he thought the bill was already paid and would attend to the problem.