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Quarrel between neighbors over dog trap ends in arrest

After a trap is set to catch roaming pets, a man accused of freeing his dog ends up bruised.

By BRIDGET HALL GRUMET, Times Staff Writer
© St. Petersburg Times
published January 7, 2003

LAND O'LAKES -- A dispute over a dog trap ended Sunday morning with environmental activist Clay Colson bruised and his neighbor behind bars.

It all started with a trap set by Pasco County Animal Control to catch the roaming animals that have become a problem in the rural neighborhood.

Matthew Daniel Clark, 25, of 4238 Joy Drive told deputies that one of Colson's wandering dogs was caught in the trap. Clark said that instead of leaving it for Animal Control, Colson freed the dog about 7 a.m. Sunday.

"He already let it out, and he took off running," Clark told the St. Petersburg Times. Clark and his mother-in-law, Michelle Matthews, say Colson has 10 dogs and about 70 cats that roam the area. They say the animals relieve themselves on neighbors' lawns and have caused a flea problem.

Colson told deputies he was simply tending to his animals in his own yard at 4318 Joy Drive. By both accounts, Clark came out of his home and started yelling at Colson.

But Colson said it went further. In his statement to the Pasco County Sheriff's Office, Colson said Clark pelted his back with tennis-ball sized chunks of concrete and hit his arm with a wooden shovel handle.

Colson showed deputies three red scratches on his back and a 4-inch purple bruise on his left forearm.

Clark told deputies he did not throw or swing anything at Colson.

Due to Colson's "obvious physical injuries," however, deputies arrested Clark on a charge of aggravated battery.

Clark was freed on $10,000 bail Sunday evening.

As a founder of the Naturecoast Sierra Club and the slow-growth group Citizens for Sanity, Colson, 47, has been an outspoken critic of the Suncoast Parkway, the Oakstead housing development and other projects that could affect wildlife and water quality.

Colson did not return a call Monday for comment.

-- Bridget Hall Grumet covers crime in east Pasco. She can be reached at (352) 521-5757 ext. 23 or toll-free 1-800-333-7505, ext. 6108, then 23. Her e-mail address is bhall@sptimes.com .

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