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Sheep-killing dogs elude authorities

As she videotaped the ghastly aftermath of the attack, Joelle Miller's camera zoomed in on the wounds of one of the surviving sheep.

"She can't even get up, she's hurt so bad," Miller can be heard saying on the tape. "And she's so pregnant."

Since the beginning of the year, the small flock of sheep Miller and her husband Randy Miller care for has twice been attacked by marauding dogs.

And while the Millers think they know at least one of the dogs responsible, Hillsborough County Animal Services investigators were unable to positively identify them.

"The first time (Jan. 2) they killed six of our sheep, and three of them were pregnant," Mrs. Miller said. "And one lamb was prematurely born. They literally took a bite out of every other sheep. At that time we had 18 sheep."

Mrs. Miller said the dogs slipped under the pasture's fences again March 2 and killed 10 more sheep. "We just put the 11th down because she couldn't overcome her wounds," she said. "We didn't have a gun to shoot them (the dogs) or we would have. These dogs are bloodthirsty. They're not eating the sheep, they're just biting them."

The Millers tend the sheep for owner Audrey Major. The attacks happened on 6 acres that Major owns on Curry Road, a rural stretch off Livingston Avenue in Lutz. Now the Millers keep the seven remaining sheep in their fenced yard.

Mrs. Miller said she was able to see the dogs through binoculars after the first attack, and that a maintenance man in the area saw the dogs with blood on their faces leaving the area after the second attack.

Both times, the dogs were described as a large, white pit bullterrier mix and a large black Labrador mix.

"Those dogs are still on the loose," Mrs. Miller said. "I have two little girls and I'm afraid to let them out to the lake to fish because I'm afraid of those dogs."

Sgt. Lois Wimsett, an investigator with animal control, looked into the case but couldn't determine which dogs had done the killing.

"They really don't have a good idea about identification," Wimsett said. "Mrs. Miller saw them through binoculars with blood all over their faces, and there was a handyman that saw the white dog with blood all over its face, but she wasn't sure she could identify the dog without blood on its face."

Wimsett went to the home of Robert Buckner, 15416 N 15th St., because he had a dog resembling one of those seen at the attacks. Buckner denied that the dog, which belonged to his visiting daughter, had anything to do with the attacks.

"Where they live, it's wide open," Wimsett said. "There may be many other dogs that roam around, that could be let out, that could look very similar to those dogs. But there was no way to identify them positively and then euthanize them."

Wimsett cited Buckner for allowing his daughter's dog to run at large, for having no vaccination, no tag and being vicious. Buckner will appear before a hearing master May 8. He assured Wimsett that the dog has been returned to its home in another county.

Wimsett said she cruised the neighborhood for more than five hours and "as far as the other dogs, we saw neither hide nor hair of them."

_ Logan D. Mabe can be reached at (813) 269-5304 or at mabesptimes.com.

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