SEBRING — Every day Gail Ball walks her golden lab, Chelsea. And on March 11 everything started out as normal during the walk in Fairmount Mobile Estates.
But, in a shocking twist of events that day, Ball recalled that as she walked Chelsea and passed a truck, a pit bull in the front seat “lunged out the window and (came) directly at Chelsea. I was petrified.”
“It was the most frightening moment of my life,” she said.
Two days later, Ball said, she still is affected by the attack and wonders whether Highlands County has sufficient laws regarding vicious animals. Ball, who is a seasonal resident from Ontario, Canada, said pit bulls are banned after one mauled to death a woman visiting an apartment building. She said only people who had pit bulls before the law became effective can keep them.
In Highlands County and Florida, however, no laws ban specific breeds.
Darryl Scott, director of Highlands County Animal Control, said his department is aware of the situation involving Gail Ball and Chelsea.
“We are looking into it,” he said.
Currently, he said, the county has a leash law. When the dog is off the owner’s property, the owner is responsible for controlling it, Scott said.
But, he said, “criminally there’s not much on the books.”
In some cases, Animal Control can issue a warning or at most a $50 citation to the owner, he said.
Generally, if a dog attacks another dog, for example, and the owner of the other dog wants compensation for medical treatment for the dog, the only course of action is a civil lawsuit in court if the owner refuses to pay, he said.
Ball said she would like to see a law that requires a muzzle if the dog poses a threat.
The only way the county can require the owner to put a muzzle on the dog is if the “dog has been deemed dangerous previously.” Scott said.
But, Ball said, a muzzle would have lessened the impact of the attack on her dog.
When the pit bull attacked Chelsea, she said, a neighbor went and found the owner, who came to the scene.
But, Ball said, when the owner called the pit bull, “it went ballistic.”
The owner jumped on top of the pit bull to get it to stop attacking Chelsea, she said.
Ball said she thought the pit bull would kill her dog. As it turned out, the dog had puncture wounds on its back that required three staples, she said.
Although Chelsea is recovering, the dog at times is afraid when outside, Ball said.
And the attack has had a long-term effect on her, as well, she said.
Recently, she said, she saw another pit bull.
“As soon as I saw that pit bull, I started crying,” she said.