TOP SECRET ANIMAL ATTACK FILES
Special Report filed by AAF
from Naples Daily News
sues dogs' owners in wake of pit bulls' attacks on pets
Monday, November 20, 2000
By CHRIS W. COLBY, Staff Writer
As Ann Whitfield and her family sat in the front yard of the kids' school, they cried.
Her daughter is 13 and her son is 15, but even though they're older children, it was difficult and emotional to describe how the family's puppy, cat and parrot had been brutally attacked and killed by three of the neighbor's pit bulls. The pets were victimized, but so was the family, Whitfield said Friday.
And now Whitfield, of 19th Avenue Southwest in Golden Gate, has filed a lawsuit against Jim and Diane Faso, her neighbors down the street. The Fasos were unavailable Friday to comment on Whitfield's and the Collier County Domestic Animal Services' allegations that they allowed their mixed breed pit bulls, part bull terrier and part American pit bull, to roam free.
During the daytime on Oct. 27, the two 6-month-old pit bulls and their mother, owned by the Faso family, crawled underneath the chicken wire fence around the Whitfields' back yard and attacked a 4-month-old Wiemaraner puppy, mauling it to death, Whitfield said. The dogs then lept over some bushes and broke through the screened-in lanai in the rear of the house. Inside, they bit and killed Whitfield's Indian ringneck talking parrot, which has a cage that's kept open. And either inside the lanai or in the yard the dogs mauled the family's cat.
"We were just so sick. We were almost vomiting we felt so sick," she said as she described how her family felt after the attack.
A neighbor heard the Whitfields' puppy scream in agony so he called 911 and animal control. When animal control officers arrived, they saw the three pit bulls taking turns biting at the dead puppy's neck as they stood guard over it.
"What if my children had been home and walked out in the yard?" Whitfield asked.
The dogs fled when officers tried to apprehend them. The two younger dogs were caught but the mother escaped.
"We have removed the puppies from the home and they are here pending the investigation of the dogs for dangerous dog classification," said Jodi Walters, director of Domestic Animal Services.
That is a classification under state law that deems a dog a threat to public safety. If a dog has two separate incidents in which it attacks another domestic animal, or one incident in which it attacks and seriously injures a human, it can be classified a dangerous dog through a legal process in the court system. Once any appeals from the owner are exhausted, the dogs can then be put to sleep, Walters said.
Depending on the interpretation of the incident with the Whitfields' animals, the attack could count simply as one incident of an attack rather than three because it occurred at the same place around the same time. The dogs might have to strike again to meet the classification, and that upsets Whitfield, especially since pit bulls are known to attack humans.
"Where do we go from here? How do we change these laws? There needs to be something done, There needs to be more laws. Pit bulls have been banned in certain places, in certain states. How many more people need to be mauled for something to be done?" she said.
Whitfield filed her suit Tuesday in Collier County small claims court, suing for only $1,532 - the value of the three animals, the cost to repair the screen on her lanai and the cost of cleanup of the blood from her pets.
"Pets are just considered personal property and you can't get pain and suffering, which is OK, I'm not a greedy person," Whitfield said. "I don't blame the dogs. They didn't know what they were doing. I blame the parents."
The Fasos have been a frequent subject of complaints in the neighborhood, Walters said. Since 1995, the family has been cited and fined numerous times and for more than $500 for allowing the mother pit bull and another dog, an aggressive boxer that is now dead, to roam the neighborhood. State law says all pets must be kept confined to the owner's property, Walters said.
"They have been a problem dog owner," Walters said. "They have not kept their dogs locked up."
Whitfield has contacted county officials to discuss avenues for changing the laws. She said she doesn't want to see the pit bulls that killed her pets to be put to death, but she wants the law to prevent such attacks.
"I would like to see pit bulls banned at least in the state of Florida," Whitfield said. "You'd think that after a little while, something would have to be done."
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