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Pack of dogs creating terror, neighbors say

The owner of the three dogs admits they killed a cat last year, and neighbors fear a pet bunny may have been their most recent victim.

Mike Gilbert says his dogs are gentle giants: playful, lovable and not a bit dangerous.

His neighbors say the canine trio _ a malamute, a Siberian husky and a husky-German shepherd mix _ are responsible for the deaths of at least two neighborhood cats and a pet rabbit. They fear a person could be next.

Pinellas County Animal Services has waded into the fray 11 times since last year. Officers have picked up the dogs at least twice for roaming the neighborhood and have cited Gilbert once for allowing the dogs to bark and create a public nuisance.

Residents of Lakeshore, a neighborhood just east of U.S. 19 and north of Alderman Road, say they want the dogs removed before someone gets hurt. Some say they are afraid to let their children out to play or walk their dogs around the block for fear that Gilbert's pets will round the corner looking for action.

"Let's not let it get to the point of being a child," resident Kathy Van Dyck said. "How scary is that? They won't contain their dogs, so every one else has to contain their kids."

Gilbert said he is doing everything he can to keep his dogs in his yard.

He purchased an electric wire to put around the fenced-in back yard shortly after moving into the neighborhood about a year ago, he said. He said whenever he leaves the house, he puts the dogs in his garage.

Gilbert also said that he gave his phone number to his neighbors so that if the dogs ever got out while he was at work, they could call him and he would come home and put them back inside.

"All they want to do is run and go play," he said. "When they get done playing, they come home. They've only gotten out probably once in the past I don't know how many months."

Gilbert admits that his dogs killed a stray cat in the past year. But he said he had not heard about a second cat or about the rabbit.

Shannon Sullivan said she watched Gilbert's three dogs pull her 18-year-old cat, Shadow, out from under a car in her driveway and kill him last August.

"They literally mauled it. They were playing with it, throwing it up in the air," Sullivan said. "They were throwing him like a limp rag."

Not long after that, Sullivan said, she saw the dogs go after another neighborhood cat. She intervened and forced the dogs onto Gilbert's porch, she said.

"I blame the owners. I don't blame the animals," Sullivan said. "When they're let loose like that, when they pack like that, I don't care how well they're trained, they're going to kill."

No one witnessed the attack on Jennifer Lincoln's bunny. But Jennifer's mom, Nancy, suspects that Gilbert's dogs are behind it.

Jennifer, 7, was supposed to take the bunny, Sara, into summer camp Tuesday morning for show-and-tell. But sometime late Sunday night or early Monday, something chewed a hole in Sara's chicken-wire hutch, pulled the bunny out and left it dead on the Lincolns' side yard.

"I have to go pick up my daughter from school right now and explain why there's a hole in her bunny cage and the bunny is dead," said an irate Nancy Lincoln Monday afternoon. She said the large paw prints around the bunny's cage seemed to implicate Gilbert's dogs.

Another neighbor claimed to have seen the dogs running through the neighborhood and near the Lincolns' home the night before the bunny was killed.

Jennifer Lincoln is devastated over the loss of the pet brought to her by Santa Claus in 1995, her mother said. Joshua Lincoln, 2, is afraid the dogs will come get him, she said.

"He's afraid to go in the back yard because he knows they ate the bunny," Nancy Lincoln said.