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Attack on boy raises fears of dog packs

The biting of the child heightens resentment about dogs that keep escaping and terrorizing neighbors.


© St. Petersburg Times, published June 13, 2000

HOMOSASSA -- A 10-year-old boy was hospitalized briefly Sunday after he was attacked by two or more pit bullterriers while riding his bike in the W Cardinal Street area, neighbors said.

Chris Foxworth, who lives on Ryan Court, was not seriously injured, though he suffered puncture wounds to a hand and elbow, said his mother, and is now afraid of dogs. He was given a tetanus shot at Seven Rivers Community Hospital Sunday afternoon.

However, neighbors say they have filed repeated complaints in recent months with Citrus County's Division of Animal Control over as many as 11 free-ranging dogs menacing residents. They say the attack was a matter of time.

"It's like the dogs are running the neighborhood and the people are fenced in," said Roy Pistone, 59, a retired electronics firm manager, who lives next door to the dog's owners.

Debra Penninger, whose home also is on Ryan Court, said she has had up to 11 dogs staying at her home in recent months -- eight pit bullterriers, a sharpei,a mixed-breed chow and a Dalmatian. And she said she has had trouble keeping them penned in her fenced yard. They keep finding ways out.

Normally, she said, she has five of the pit bulls, but she said she has recently taken in a daughter and friend who have added their own dogs to the mix. That's when the escape problems began. (The daughter has moved out, bringing the number down to eight dogs.)

"I feel real bad about that boy being bit," Penninger said. "It could have been a whole lot worse. They won't see these dogs out of the fence anymore."

Chris Foxworth was riding his bike home from a friend's house on S Ridge Point about 2 p.m. Sunday when the attack happened. It is unclear whether he was attacked by two or three dogs. Penninger said it was two and only one did the biting. Animal Control is holding three dogs under 10-day quarantine.

Her son-in-law, Joey Hutchinson, pulled the dogs away from the boy. Penninger said the dogs were an adult female named Molly and a 6-month-old puppy, named Buster, that belongs to a friend. The other dog held is a case of mistaken identity, she said.

She said Buster bit another child three months ago and was the one that did the biting Sunday. However, Chris pointed out Molly when asked to pick out the offending dog at the Citrus County Animal Shelter on Monday.

Pistone said at least three of the dogs greeted him at his front door on S Ridge Point as he attempted to get his paper earlier Sunday. And he said his wife was prevented from exiting her car when returning from work on day recently.

Another neighbor, Anthony Serrecchio, 77, said he, too, was chased into his house by a pack of his neighbor's dogs while trying to retrieve the newspaper about a month ago.

"We knew this was coming eventually," said Sandra Foxworth, Chris' mother.

Penninger said that while she felt bad about the attack, her neighbors are making more of the situation than it is, particularly Pistone. She said they have had ongoing disputes about the appearance of her yard.

"He's just looking for something to get me on," she said.

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