Special Report filed by AAF ace correspondent: Scott Tingley
from St Petersburg Times


Animal Attack

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    Alligator wins fight, gets dog

Friday, August 25, 2000

St. Petersburg Times — Scripps Howard News Service

CLEARWATER, Fla - Sonsire N. Vale’s two dogs were swimming in a stream when an alligator grabbed her terrier in its jaws. Vale, 35, jumped into the stream and punched the alligator, desperately trying to free her dog.

“She jumps into the water and starts pounding on the gator’s head with her fist,” said Clearwater Officer Jonathan Walser. “Then she tries to pull her dog out of the gator’s mouth.”

Clutched in the alligator’s jaws, the frantic dog was yelping and trying to bite the alligator. The dog accidentally bit Vale several times as she tried to pull it away.

The alligator, which authorities estimated was 5 to 7 feet long, thrashed around and began pulling the dog, with Vale holding on, into deeper water along the stream’s banks, Walser said. Vale finally let go.

The alligator disappeared underwater with the 40-pound dog.

“There are signs in the area warning about alligators,” Walser said. “She had been there before and thought she was safe because the water in the stream is only 2 to 3 feet deep. But the alligator came from deeper water along the bank where there’s underbrush.”

Vale notified police and went to Mease Hospital-Countryside, Safety Harbor for treatment of puncture wounds on her right hand. Walser said doctors confirmed she had suffered dog bites, not injuries from an alligator.

The attack happened about 5 p.m. Monday at a stream that feeds Moccasin Lake at a city park, where Vale had driven with the 12-year-old terrier and a black Labrador. With the dogs on leashes, she began following the stream on the corner of the park and released them to play in the water.

“She thought it was shallow enough to be safe,” Walser said.

© Copyright 2000 The Associated Press

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