The dogs that killed five goats in Lecanto are dangerous and should be kept in a secure kennel if they are ever to leave the Citrus County Animal Shelter, County Administrator Randy Oliver ruled Thursday.

During a hearing, Oliver upheld the Citrus County Sheriff’s Office Animal Control’s declaration for Jack and Jill, sibling mixed-breed dogs owned by Out of the Box Animal Rescue Inc.

Rescue president Robert Schweickert Jr., through his attorney Luke Lirot, agreed during the hearing that Jill was the aggressor and should be declared a dangerous dog. They were unsuccessful in asking Oliver to lift the declaration for Jack.

Both dogs are being housed at the animal shelter following the Feb. 11 attack that killed five goats belonging to Chuck Sanders of Lecanto. Sanders lives a short distance from Out of the Box, which is operating out of the former FDS Disposal site on State Road 44 across from the county landfill.

The property owner, William Ray, says Schweickert isn’t paying rent and he plans to evict him.

Once Oliver signs the order, Schweickert will have 14 days to provide a secure pen for both dogs. He also must pay a $500 annual license for each dog, plus housing fees accumulated daily from the shelter. As of Thursday, the fees were up to about $700 total, shelter director Colleen Yarbrough said.

Before releasing the dogs from the county shelter, animal control officers will inspect the property to ensure Schweickert is fulfilling the dangerous-dog ordinance.

Animal Control Director Lora Peckham said the fact that the property owner plans to evict Schweickert could make that inspection process troublesome.

Peckham testified during the hearing that both dogs have a history of aggressive behavior. Officers who responded to 70 complaints when the dogs were owned by someone in Citrus Hills reported the dogs chasing them and neighbors. Peckham said the dogs chased her back into her own animal control vehicle.

“I watched them chase neighbors,” she said. “I watched them chase other officers.”

Out of the Box rescued the dogs from the shelter after they were placed on a five-day hold as part of county policy that allows rescue groups the opportunity to save dogs that cannot be adopted due to bite or aggressive histories.

Schweickert said he and rescue volunteers were in the process of moving dogs from Floral City to Lecanto when he asked volunteers to place Jack and Jill in an upstairs office with food and water, and close the door.

A volunteer notified Schweickert later on Feb. 10 that the dogs had escaped. Schweickert said he and volunteers looked for the dogs until dark that night and couldn’t find them.

Sanders, who has lived on the nearly 5-acre property for 17 years and has had goats for 12 years, said he came out early in the morning on Feb. 11 and found the goats dead. The dogs aggressively charged a fence that separated the goat kennel from the rest of his property and he considered killing them, but changed his mind.

“Two more dead animals, what is that going to accomplish?” he said. “I basically went through my head, nothing this tragic has ever happened. Not even close to this.”

Since then, he said, he learned the dogs had an aggressive history and that Schweickert was untruthful to him about it.

Schweickert and two Out of the Box volunteers, both Lecanto High School students, told Oliver they had never seen Jack or Jill being aggressive. Schweickert, however, acknowledged Jill as the dominant of the two.

“Jill wears the pants in the family, so to speak,” Schweickert said.

After the hearing, Lirot said Schweickert plans to follow the dangerous-dog ordinance for Jill. He said he didn’t know yet whether Schweickert would appeal in court the ruling for Jack.

Oliver noted in his ruling that it’s unlikely that Jill alone killed the large male goat.

“It’s implausible from a practical standpoint,” he said, “for one dog to take down a goat that’s over 200 pounds.”

This story was updated to include the animal shelter fees accumulated so far for housing Jack and Jill.

 

Contact Chronicle reporter Mike Wright at 352-563-3228 or mwright@chronicleonline.com.

(3) comments

DEBT

If ever there were a case for ending the lives of two dogs this is it. Again Citrus County authorities have dropped the ball and by doing so have endangered the well being of the good folks that live here.

williamp

why do we waste so much time on these dogs . thy both need to be rid of and save all of us a lot of head aches we have gotten to be a society that we care more about animals than we do areselves

Oldgreybull

It has been reported that the Out Of The Bx shelter has repeatedly shown a flagrant disregard for the terms of previous agreements or even contracts it has entered into.
It has abused favorable terms the county provided at a previous location and was basically evicted for not acting in good faith.
Reports are that it has also been evicted from other locations and may soon be evicted from its current location, again for failure to comply with terms it has promised to fulfill.
It has been cited for neglect in caring for some animals in its care in an incident where an animal was strangled to death.
The animals in the current incident were supposedly restrained, but have a record of subsequently showing aggressive behaviour including biting a child.
They were known to be aggressive and to operate as a pack, but were still not properly confined and escaped into a residential neighborhood. Even though the organization knew that they were dangerous and at large, they did not notify the proper authorities or even take steps to alert neighboring property owners.
As a consequence the animals attacked and killed, not one, but six large goats including a full grown buck weighing more than 200 lbs.
They then lingered on the property and continued to show aggressive behaviour when discovered by the property owner and even the animal control officer who was called to the scene.
The proper authorities are on notice that these animals are dangerous and Out of the Box has demonstrated they are not competent to contain them, much less retrain them.
Citrus County hadsa tax supported Animal Services department which is charged with handling these situations. They must be allowed to do their job and take the actions they deem appropriate.
Releasing these dangerous animals back into the care of Out of the Box would be irresponsible and negligent and subject the county to liability for any further damages they may inflict.

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