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Family's dog recovering after being shot

A week after the shooting, Bear seems to be holding up better than the rest of the family _ and he's the one missing his back left leg.

"He's great," Richard Stevens said Friday of his dog, a 21-month-old Rottweiler-Lab mix. "He's doing better than my wife and daughter are, that's for sure. That was their baby."

Bear was hurt about 1:20 p.m. Oct. 24 as he was barking and running along the fence line behind Stevens' 5-acre farm on McMullen Road in Floral City, according to a Citrus County Sheriff's Office report.

Stevens said he went outside to see what all the commotion was about. On the other side of the 6-foot-tall fence he saw a Ford pickup truck on his neighbor's property, the report said.

"I just heard (the truck) stop and shoot," Stevens said. "Then I heard my dog yelp. I started hollering at the truck and he just drove off. Then my dog came up and his (back left) leg was shot off."

Bear had been wounded near the ankle.

"There was nothing left," Stevens said. "(Bear's foot) was just barely hanging on there."

Stevens called 911 and rushed Bear to the Countryside Animal Clinic in Beverly Hills. A veterinarian had to amputate the rest of Bear's injured leg.

A sheriff's deputy came out to the property to investigate the shooting. On the other side of the fence, on property on E Stage Coach Trail, the deputy discovered a deer that appeared to have been wounded by a gunshot, the report said.

The deputy referred Bear's shooting to Citrus County Animal Control, and the injured deer to the Florida Game and Fresh Water Fish Commission.

Animal Control director Hank Baggett said he would not comment while his agency is still investigating.

An Animal Control investigator recently interviewed a suspect in the case, Baggett said.

If charges are filed in the case, Baggett said, it most likely will be for animal cruelty. If the cruelty was the result of negligence, then the charge would be a first-degree misdemeanor punishable by up to a year in jail and a $5,000 fine. If the cruelty was malicious, the charge would be a third-degree felony punishable by up to five years in prison and a $10,000 fine.

Stevens said Bear deserves better.

"He is about the friendliest animal in the world," he said.

He also ruled out that Bear could not possibly have posed a threat to anyone when the shooting occurred.

"He couldn't," Stevens said. "The fence line is 4-inch-thick hog mesh, the dog can't clear it. It's shoulder to nose high to me."

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