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Neighbors menaced by dogs

Residents say a man's five dogs are trying to get into houses. The man already was cited after the dogs' fatal attack on a dachshund in February.

By JENNIFER FARRELL

© St. Petersburg Times, published March 17, 2001


SPRING HILL -- Last month, a 74-year-old widow watched her beloved dachshund get torn apart by a pack of dogs running loose in her neighborhood.

Peanut slipped through the back door when Lottie Zacira went outside to shoo a strange dog from her yard off Larkin Road.

What followed, Zacira said, was a brutal attack by five dogs that ended up forcing her to euthanize her 14-year-old pet.

On Monday, Hernando County Animal Services officials cited Robert J. Hertzog, 51, of 1251 Persian Ave., for not restraining his two Rottweilers and three huskies, all 10 months old. He faces a $302.50 fine for the citation.

But by Friday, neighbors were calling county officials to complain the dogs were loose again, roaming the neighborhood, breaking into screened porches and generally terrorizing the area.

"Somebody's going to get hurt," said Robert Lowe, 47, who lives on Hayward Road. "They try to break in and tear our dogs apart. They are just frothing at the mouth. They are in a frenzy."

Lowe said he and several neighbors had seen the dogs running loose before and complained to the county.

Jim Varn, director of Animal Services, said Friday that his office was preparing to write a second citation and is considering beginning a "dangerous dog investigation."

"Somebody's going to get hurt badly," he said. "He's got a pack of dogs out there. They're 10 months old. If they're doing this already, it's going to get worse . It's not going to get better."

If the dogs are designated as dangerous, Varn said, Hertzog would be required to pay $100 each to license them, have each one tattooed with an identification number and keep them in a locked pen posted with a danger sign. The dogs also would not be allowed off the property without muzzles.

"Either that or he's gotta keep them tied up," Varn said.

Zacira said she can't shake the memory of what happened to Peanut, a gift from her son after her husband died 13 years ago.

She is still afraid to walk outside alone, and then there are the bills: $800 for Peanut's vet; $100 for her new dog, Daisy; plus $700 for a new fence in the backyard.

To help her cope, Zacira got Daisy, a year-old tan Lab-mix adopted from the Pasco County Humane Society. The pair are still getting used to each other, she said, but it's nice to have company again.

"You have to have something occupy (you), to forget what happened yesterday," Zacira said.

Hertzog, who authorities said is awaiting trial this month on charges of battery and aggravated assault with a handgun for a June incident in Brooksville, did not return calls for comment.

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