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Hot On The Web: Rick Scott's dog problem

Reagan and Gov. Rick Scott
Posted at 12:16 PM, Jan 15, 2013
and last updated 2013-01-15 10:21:26-05

TALLAHASSEE, Fla. (WTXL) -- Florida's Governor Rick Scott has a dog problem.

After winning the GOP's nomination in 2010, Scott announced on Facebook that he and his family had rescued a Labrador retriever who was eventually named Reagan.

"The Scott family is proud to announce that the name (chosen by you) for their newly adopted pup is Reagan! Thanks to everyone who participated in the fun contest,'' read Scott's announcement on his Facebook page.

Fast forward to 2013, and several reporters at Tampa Bay Times newspaper began to wonder: where is Reagan today?

The newspaper reports when they asked Scott's current and former communications directors they refused to answer.

Brian Burgess, communications director during the campaign and for more than a year after Scott took office, now holds a similar position for the state GOP. When a Times reporter asked him where the dog is, Burgess said he thought it "weird'' that two Times reporters would contact him six minutes apart with questions dating back to the 2010 campaign, the newspaper reports.

But he wouldn't say where the dog was and accused reporters of "surfing some old Facebook or website pages.'' At one point an exasperated reporter asked Burgess if he had killed the dog, and Burgess denied ever killing a dog, but still wouldn't say where Reagan was.

According to the newspaper article, late Wednesday, Burgess testily emailed that he was working on an answer and recognized "the potential for a PR nightmare if the Tampa Bay Times doesn't receive a photo of Reagan next to today's copy of the Tampa Bay Times. So take it to the bank I'm getting you every bit of info I can lay my hands on.''

On Thursday Burgess said he was referring all questions about the dog to Melissa Sellers, the governor's new communications director. Sellers responded over two days that she was far too busy to find an answer to the question.

A spokesman for the governor's wife also declined to respond to questions about Reagan, saying only that they have one dog.

"Her name is Tallee and she is a 7-year-old rescue Lab,'' said Jackie Schutz, a spokeswoman for Mrs. Scott told the newspaper.

Where Tallee came from and where Reagan went were still unknown.

On Monday, the Times asked the governor to clear up the mystery.

"He was a rescue dog,'' Scott said, "and he couldn't be around anybody that was carrying anything, and so he wouldn't get better."

Scott said Reagan never bit anyone but "scared the living daylights'' out of people at the mansion. He said one kitchen employee threatened to quit and photographer Eric Tournay was frightened when the dog "barked like crazy'' every time he saw him with a camera.

So the Scotts gave the dog back to his prior owner, Scott said, about a month after the family moved to Tallahassee. The governor's office on Monday told the Times it was trying to find Reagan and its new family.

Now the Scotts have Tallee.

"This dog is the neediest dog. When I worked out this morning, he wants to be right next to you the whole time. If you do a push-up, he wants to be underneath you as you do a push-up. He's a sweet dog,'' Scott said.

After learning that Times reporters had talked to the governor, a spokeswoman called to say Reagan had been returned about a year ago to All Pets Grooming and Boarding, a business in Naples.