LAKELAND, Fla. – Linda Dionne thought she was going to die that day. The tender flesh on her arms and legs was ripped apart, leaving raw, open wounds.
Pat Jeffries got her gun out and was ready to use it when she felt the teeth and heard the low, guttural growl.
Both women live in the same city, in the same area, just blocks apart. There’s one more connection they share – one that has scarred both of them for life.
They were attacked by the same dogs.
Dionne spoke with News Channel 8 after her February 13th attack. Her limbs were bandaged and bruised – one hand immobile. She managed to clap by tapping her other hand gently on knee in gratitude for the deputy who saved her life.
“I thought I was going to be mauled to death. I’ve never been so scared in my whole life,” she explained.
Dionne was doing her job that day as a Lakeland electrical worker on Fish Hatchery Road. As she walked onto the property, she had no idea what she’d face and how her life would change forever.
Before the day was over, two muscular, stout, 60-pound dogs – Sofia and Haze – raced toward her and dove into a savage attack. Dionne was terrified. A Polk County deputy managed to get there in time to save her life. The dogs were ripping Dionne apart, and she was losing copious amounts of blood. The deputy shot Sofia, while Haze survived.
This doggie duo has done this sort of thing before, neighbors maintain.
It’s happened not once, but twice in less than a year.
Turns out, nearly the same scenario played out months earlier. The same dogs – Haze and Sofia, in the same neighborhood. In this instance, the homeowner, Pat Jeffries, told us she was traumatized. She scrambled to call 911 and crawl into her car.
“The teeth were scraping my pant legs. I could feel her teeth on my pant leg,” her voice quivered. “Now, this other woman was attacked. It’s my worst nightmare.”
Jeffries warned animal control it would happen again.
She was right.
Months later, Dionne suffered throughout a savage attack. Even though Sofia was shot by a Polk deputy to save Linda’s life, Haze survived.
So, after such a vicious attack, why was Haze returned to his owner and sent back to the exact spot where the attack happened – in the same neighborhood?
Sofia had been identified as a problem pit bull all along, deemed a dangerous dog. But, folks who live nearby maintain that the owner never did anything about it, until it was too late. Sofia was the primary aggressor in the attack on the homeowner a year ago. Meanwhile, Haze had a clean doggie criminal record.
When the two dogs attacked the Lakeland city employee months later, Haze was a first-time offender. Even though Haze was surrendered to animal control officers, the owner fought to get him back.
According to state and county statutes, the owner can legally return the dog to the home where it was living – if the dog is not deemed to be dangerous.
In Haze’s case, he had a clean record. Now, he is officially deemed dangerous, and the Polk County Sheriff’s Office tells us that the owner is complying with the rules and regulations, which include fencing and multiple posted placards.
We tried to speak with the owner Thursday, but the signs barred entry on the property.
The day that the Lakeland employee was attacked, the owner told us that Sofia was being “protective,” not aggressive.
Neighbors tell News Channel 8 enough is enough. They claim animal control isn’t helping.
They admit they’re so terrified, they called 8 on Your Side for help. We took our concerns to the sheriff’s office, and we were told that deputies and animal control officers are on the case, patrolling the area on a regular basis to make sure the owner is complying.
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