Clayton Brock and his wife, Francis, recently lost Winnie, their 300-pound breeding pig, to a dog attack in Flagler Estates earlier this month.
Brock said dogs jumped over the fence at his house and attacked Winnie so hard she had to be euthanized. Dogs also killed chickens and ducks on the property.
“I saw feathers, bones and chicken parts everywhere, and the ducks were completely gone and obliterated,” he said. “And then I went to the animals to feed the animals, and I noticed that my one pig wasn’t moving. So I walked up to the pig, and then I noticed her whole ear was gone, and I thought, ‘What are we? going to do?'”
The Brocks and others say that stray dogs in the community are a widespread problem that has led to attacks or aggressive behavior towards people and animals. The attack sparked a community gathering this month where people sought answers about what to do and how to protect themselves.
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Two of the dogs have been euthanized because of the killing and no owner has come forward, according to county spokeswoman Lorena Inclan. The dogs had collars on, according to an animal control report.
A third dog, which may have attacked a duck on the property, was alive the week of the meeting. Animal Control planned to supply a dog trap to the Brocks to help capture the animal, said Paul Studvant, division manager for St. Johns County Animal Control.
There were two reports of dogs biting people in Flagler Estates, a rural part of southwestern St. Johns County, in about the first half of the year, according to Inclan. One involved a woman who was bitten by her own dog while trying to prevent it from attacking a stray dog. The second incident occurred after a dog broke its chain and drove up a road, “injuring a person walking his dog on a leash”.
Southwest St. Johns County reported 33 leash law complaints in the first six months of the year, which refer to “animals roaming without aggressive behavior,” and eight reports of dogs attacking animals or barking at people, Studivant said. That could be incidents in parts of the county outside Flagler Estates.
Resident afraid to walk her dog
Flagler Estates is an unincorporated area largely part of St. Johns County Commission District 2, which is represented by Commissioner Sarah Arnold. Arnold did not respond to a request for comment. She was not present at the congregation meeting.
Commission chairman Henry Dean said he hadn’t heard of the recent attack or the wider issue of aggressive dogs in the area, but he planned to talk to animal control and the district administrator about the matter.
“I think one of our biggest responsibilities is public safety as a county commission, and that includes providing safe neighborhoods for our families and our residents,” Dean said.
The Brocks said that dogs that roam the community, sometimes aggressive or biting, are nothing new.
‘All here? It’s insane. You get a report every day about a dog walking around here,” Clayton Brock said.
Francis Brock said she is afraid to walk her dog in the community because she is concerned about other dogs trying to approach and fight her dog. Part of the problem comes from pets escaping their own yard. But part of the problem stems from people abandoning dogs in the community, she said.
“People don’t want them anymore and they bring them here and just dump them, and then they run the neighborhood that way,” she said.
Dealing with Dog Attacks in St. Johns County
The meeting this month drew about 40 people to a small room in a building on Light Avenue where government officials meet, including the Flagler Estates Road and Water Control District.
The meeting was led by David Williams, a road and water district official; Walt Smith, Member of the Steering Committee of Flagler Estates Community Redevelopment Area; Student and St. Johns County Sheriff’s Office Capt. Tim Burres, who covers the area.
Residents shared stories of being threatened by aggressive dogs coming onto their properties and attacks that have taken place in recent years. They have expressed concern about what to do if they see themselves, others or their animals attacked.
“Can you walk that dog?” one person asked.
Burres replied, “I’d say if it’s actively attacking you, yes, yes, take out that animal. If it attacks and then leaves and goes to say your neighbor’s house, let us (the sheriff’s office), let the animal control handle it from there I wouldn’t suggest going armed to someone else’s property and then confronting someone and then it turns out to be more than an animal, you know, getting killed. “
Smith asked about a case of a man who went to jail after killing a chicken that attacked him.
“He gave it a karate cutlet,” Smith said, adding that the chicken didn’t die immediately.
It was not clear which incident Smith was referring to, but according to the New York Post, a Jacksonville man was recently arrested for animal cruelty after killing a rooster. The man said he accidentally hit the rooster with a stick and killed it in self-defense, according to the New York Post.
“I’m not familiar with the chicken case,” Burres told the crowd.
But he said there is a big difference between animal cruelty and defending yourself, other people or your animals.
“In the heat of battle, we can’t expect you to always put them down, you know, with a first shot or something,” Burres said. “So I wouldn’t worry about something like that. If you’re roaming around the neighborhood now and just taking pot shots of animals, that’s a very different scenario.”
Burres also said that if people can get themselves and their animals to safety and call the sheriff’s office, that should be done first. Shooting or otherwise harming a dog should only happen when there is no other alternative, he said.
Studivant said people have a right to protect themselves and their property, as in the case of the Brocks’ pig attack. But he said people should also be careful not to harass or injure protected wildlife.
He proposed motion sensor sprinklers as a way to repel birds. But he said the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission can answer questions about wildlife.
If a dog attacks, people should call 911, Burres said. St. Johns County Animal Control handles calls from dogs or other animals that roam a neighborhood, are aggressive, or other animal concerns or violations.
For questions or concerns not related to emergencies, people can call the sheriff’s office non-emergency number at 904-824-8304 or St. Johns County Animal Control at 904-209-0746. The Florida Fish and Wildlife’s Wildlife Alert Hotline is 1-888-404-3922.