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Fines failed, so lawsuit seeks to ban dogs

After dozens of complaints and citations about biting dogs, Animal Control asks a judge to ban all pets from a New Port Richey home.

By BRIDGET HALL GRUMET
Published April 4, 2004

NEW PORT RICHEY - Louise George clutches a can of pepper spray when she walks through the neighborhood.

Holly Jones sometimes drives her son to school so he doesn't have to walk to the bus stop.

And George Knecht thinks about getting a permit so he can carry his gun when he takes his 5-mile bike rides through Gulf Harbors.

"If you discharge a weapon in a residential area, you get an $85 fine," he said. "But I'd rather pay that than go to the hospital again."

They are among the two dozen residents who have complained during the years about the dogs that wander out of Kevin Ford's home at 5030 Blue Heron Drive. They tell similar horror stories about the dogs chasing neighbors, charging at children and chomping at bicyclists.

Animal Control has written dozens of citations.

"They pay the fines and move on," said Assistant County Attorney Kristi Wooden. Even when some dogs are impounded, she said, Ford brings new ones home.

"It's just gotten out of hand," she said.

That's why the county is asking a judge to take an unusual next step: Ban all animals from the house, which is owned by Ford's parents, Kenneth and Carmon Ford.

Neither Kevin Ford nor his attorney, Manuel Penton, returned calls for comment last week. But in previous reports, Ford told officials his dogs are not aggressive and that he does not own the dogs that have bitten neighbors.

According to one Animal Control report from January 2003, Ford had said the neighbors don't like him "because of his long hair, and they accuse him of selling drugs." Kevin Ford has been arrested on charges of possession of marijuana, methamphetamine and drug paraphernalia, as well as charges ranging from burglary to leading officers on a high-speed chase. He is on probation.

The lawsuit against the Fords, which the county filed Tuesday, was welcome news among the neighbors in Gulf Harbors. As long as the pit bullterriers, Dobermans and chows come and go, the neighbors say they don't feel safe going outside.

"We're frequently attacked in our own yards by these dogs that come down the street," said Jeffrey Hilton, who once hurled a huge rock at two pit bullterriers that charged into his yard. "The dogs have drawn blood on a number of occasions. They almost killed me."

Knecht went to the hospital in 1999 with bloody knees after two dogs attacked him on his bike.

Jones once used pepper spray on a dog that charged her way. If the dogs are roaming the neighborhood, she said, her son doesn't feel safe walking to the bus stop.

"I don't blame the dogs," said Jones, who described herself as a dog lover. "They have to be taught to attack people. I've had dogs all my life, and they never attacked anybody."

The lawsuit asks County Judge William Sestak to grant a permanent injunction against anyone having pets at the house. A hearing date has not been set.

Sestak issued a similar injunction in August barring a Holiday man from owning dogs anywhere in Pasco County. Neighbors blamed several vicious attacks on Brad Penokie's Doberman-Rottweilers.

- Bridget Hall Grumet can be reached at 727 869-6244 or at hall@sptimes.com

[Last modified April 4, 2004, 01:05:44]


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