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Neighbors bask as yips, bleats subside

The yellow-green mobile home on Sheridan Lane looked forlorn on New Year's Eve, its yard nearly empty save for stacked animal cages, an old car and an RV, its windows closed.

For several residents in this rural subdivision near Hernando, the quiet was a welcome change.

Just a few months ago, they said, the mobile home's owner and the many animals she kept on this small plot of land kept them awake at night.

Doris Hunt, 35, of 1690 Sheridan Lane, has a history of run-ins with authorities over her animals. In mid November, she was arrested a third time on charges related to her animals.

This time, County Judge Mark Yerman told her he'd had enough.

After hearing that Hunt caused trouble for Animal Control and had a history of animal-related offenses, he sentenced her to 90 days in jail, a $1,000 fine and one year of probation, according to court records.

When an emotional Hunt told him her dogs were like her children, Yerman told her the legal system had given her plenty of opportunity to change. He told her she wasn't allowed to have a dog for a year after she got out of jail.

Several neighbors said they didn't know Hunt well and didn't know about her arrest. But they all said they were glad about one thing: all was finally quiet at 1690 E Sheridan Lane.

For months after moving to a large, newly built home, James Randle listened to the barks and noises coming from the property that bordered his back yard.

He and his wife played with dogs that sometimes wandered over from Hunt's into their yard. They watched the goats tethered in her back yard.

Randle said he'd been promised that the property on the side of his back yard would be remade into a new home, much like his own. When that didn't happened, he figured he'd swallowed a false line from a real estate agent.

A run-down home nearby was something he could handle, he said. The constant barking, yipping and bleating, he could not.

"We had no clue as to what they were doing," he said.

So he built a fence along his property line to block the view and cut down on the noise.

Over the last few weeks, he said he noticed the quiet. The pens that once housed animals were stacked up, empty, behind the home. The goats disappeared.

He wasn't happy to hear about Hunt's arrest, he said, but it was time someone did something about the ruckus at the mobile home.

Others agreed.

"It drove the neighbors crazy," said Mary Elsmore, who lives on the land next to the mobile home. "Every day, every night, it sounded like living next to the Humane Society."

Elsmore said she put up with it and never reported Hunt, but she's not sorry it's quiet now.

According to a tape of Hunt's court appearance, she was upset when Yerman banned her from keeping any dogs for a year.

"You mean I've got to get rid of my dogs?" she said.

"You've got to get rid of all your dogs," he said.

"Not the ones I've had for 10 years, please, not those," she said, her voice shaky.

"You need to get rid of your dogs, ma'am," Yerman said. "This is for the safety of the dogs and the public."

"They're like my kids," she said.

Hunt's first legal trouble with animals in Citrus County came in 1995, according to court records. At the time, Hunt lived in a mobile home park in Homosassa and was found guilty of two counts of having an unlicensed cat or dog, according to court records. Yerman fined her $55, records show.

She was arrested in 2000 on charges of selling domestic animals without a certificate and was sentenced to one year of probation, court records show.

In 2001, she was arrested again on another charge of selling animals without a certificate. She was given six months of probation and a warning from the judge, according to court records.

In early December, she was back again in front of the same judge. The prosecutor told the judge that Hunt tried to sell an undercover detective a dog that had no health certificate. The prosecutor also accused Hunt of misrepresenting the dog she tried to sell the detective.

This time, Yerman told Hunt he'd had enough.

After hearing the prosecutor list the allegations against Hunt, he asked Hunt if she had anything to say.

An emotional Hunt told Yerman she hadn't misrepresented the dog and vowed she'd changed her behavior since her latest arrest.

"Can I say something else?" she said. "I got rid of all my dogs but three, and they're all fit, and they (law enforcement) can come out to the house and look. They're all gone. Ask my mom."

When the prosecutor told Yerman that Hunt still had three dogs for sale as of Nov. 30, two days before her court appearance, Yerman told Hunt: "Ma'am, you're going to jail. Yes, you are."

"I've got an infant at home," Hunt replied.

"Well, you've got a problem," Yerman said.

Abbie VanSickle can be reached at 860-7312 or vansicklesptimes.com.

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