There goes the neighborhood
Gate-crashing cows have created a bovine terror for some New Tampa homeowners.
By EMILY NIPPS
Published April 7, 2007
NEW TAMPA - If it weren't happening to him and his neighbors, Joe Amons would think it was "funny as all get-out."
But there's nothing amusing about dressing for work and then stepping in a cow pie on the way to the car. Or finding your ornamental grass and pretty bougainvilleas munched down to the nubs. Or waking up to the jarring sound of, "Moooo!"
This is the nightmare that some Tampa Palms homeowners have been dealing with for four months: Cows. Lots of them. Trampling all over their nice lawns and destroying plants in their gated townhouse community called Palma Vista, where homes run from $300,000 to $450,000.
The cattle belong to Abram Cuesta, 52, who rents space on the neighboring 640 acres belonging to the widely known Tampa developer, Giunta Group. No one seems to know exactly how or why the cows are getting into the 80-home Palma Vista complex, but people there want it to stop - so much that the homeowners' association recently filed for an injunction to stop the cows and a lawsuit against Cuesta.
The problem started in December, and since then, Tampa police have received more than a dozen calls related to cow invasions or cows in the road.
Police and Hillsborough County sheriff's deputies are just as stymied as the residents. Although the cows are committing their crimes on city soil, they are coming from land outside the city limits. And besides, police Capt. Tom Wolff said, "We don't really handle cows."
Sheriff's agricultural investigator Homer Brown said that the cows aren't the county's responsibility. "We refer this to the city," he said. "If they need us to come impound a cow because they can't contact the owner, all we can do is come out there with our trailer and basically put the cow in cow jail. But they the cows are never there when we get there."
Wolff said police have cited Cuesta at least once for failure to maintain livestock, and they have investigated the cows' escape. They have theories that perhaps hog hunters or cow tippers have cut holes in the fence, or perhaps there are soft spots along the wetland borders where the fence is sinking. Believe it, Brown said. A cow can sometimes hop over barbed wire.
Emily Nipps can be reached at (813) 269-5313 or firstname.lastname@example.org.