John Garvey and his 5-pound, 3-year-old miniature poodle Dexter were taking a walk Monday morning outside his Inverness home when a large dog appeared from down the street.
“I saw this dog come charging at me, and he went for my dog,” said Garvey, who’s 86 years old.
Garvey did what he could to yank the leashed Dexter away from the jaws of the pursuing 60-pound canine, which was able to grab Dexter in its mouth a few times.
“I tried everything,” Garvey said. “I tried kicking the dog.”
Across the street of South Bay Berry Point, a home-security camera recorded what happened.
Dexter’s leash wrapped around Garvey’s arm several times, causing rope burn, as he spun Dexter around in mid-air to keep the dog from its pursuer.
“The dog didn’t get me,” Garvey said. “I was not scared for myself, but I was scared for the life of my dog.”
Garvey pulled on Dexter so hard that his dog’s harness slid off, allowing Dexter to run for his owner’s front door and hide behind a bush, escaping the other dog.
Garvey went after Dexter as the other dog went off to find its owner, who Garvey said walked by without saying a word.
Dexter went into surgery to treat the slashes on his hindquarters and the numerous puncture wounds across his body.
“It was horrible, I thought he was dead for sure,” Garvey said. “He’s doing great now; the vet couldn’t believe how well he went through the operation, but he’s sleeping most of time.”
Citrus County Sheriff’s Office’s Animal Control Unit learned the aggressive dog, Romeo, lived in Garvey’s neighborhood, according to Jodi Sanders, sheriff’s spokeswoman.
Animal Control Supervisor Lora Peckham spoke with Romeo’s owner, who agreed to pay Dexter’s vet bills, remove Romeo from the community and place the dog with a rescue that specializes in housing difficult dogs, Sanders said.
If Romeo’s owner doesn’t comply, they will be cited for Monday’s incident, Sanders said.
Garvey said he’s OK with what happens if Romeo’s leaving.
“If the dog is removed and can’t come back, that would satisfy me,” he said.
Garvey and Dexter weren’t the only ones Romeo attacked.
In May 2018, Romeo got loose from his home and bit the leg of Chase Creel, an officer with the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission, according to Sanders and a call log narrative.
Sanders said Creel's injury was not severe, and Creel didn’t pursue matters further.
Romeo also got loose last August, but did not approach anyone, according to the sheriff's office
Following that, Romeo’s owner took the dog to obedience training, installed automatic closing doors on the property and put in baby gates to keep Romeo contained, Sanders said.
No incidents happened since, but Romeo was able to escape on Monday because the owner’s elderly father propped a door open, according to Sanders.
Florida law states that an animal can’t be labeled dangerous and, therefore, secured unless there’s a reported injury to a person of multiple bites, broken bones, permanent disfigurement or a wound that requires surgery.
There also has to be more than one reported attack against another animal while off its owner’s property for a dog to considered harmful.
A dog can also be deemed dangerous if someone makes a sworn statement to authorities that it chased them unprovoked.
“Because neither of the incidents meet the statute restrictions, animal control is not legally permitted to take the dog at this time,” Sanders said.
No other incidents have been reported to the sheriff’s office as of Thursday, according to Sanders.
Robert Roselieb said he’s planning on filing a report with the sheriff’s office after the same dog that attacked his neighbor Garvey's dog chased his 22-year-old son back into his house from outside, several minutes before going after Dexter.
A fence kept the dog from getting to Roselieb's son.
“That was the only thing that stopped him,” Roselieb said. “He’ll come right at you, it doesn’t matter who you are… if you walk outside, you don't even know this dog is loose.
“This is such a bad situation that needs to be taken care of.”