VILLAS – Thomas P. LaRosa moved to East Florida Avenue in Villas two years ago. He lived on an 18-acre farm, in upstate Pennsylvania, that was home to several farm animals, domestic pets, bears and even a mountain lion or two.
None of the wild animals ever interacted with his livestock or pets, so he was shocked when, on the morning of March 5, his wife began frantically calling his name.
“I ran outside and there are two dogs attacking my dog, Holly. I grabbed a thin, metal flagpole and started slashing at the dogs. When I hit them on the nose, they ran off,” LaRosa explained.
LaRosa’s dog is a 160-pound Rottweiler that held her own against the two dogs, but the two loose dogs were not done terrorizing the neighborhood.
After they left LaRosa’s yard, they ran two houses away and went after a neighbor’s dog. Having no luck getting to that dog, the pair ran across the street and jumped the fence of Marti Banach.
Banach had just let her 4-month-old Shih Tzu puppies, Crash and Bandit, out back when she heard barking.
“I ran outside and saw the head of Crash in the other dog’s mouth. I grabbed his body, thinking the dog would let go. I started screaming, and my neighbors came running over. I was in shock and started looking around for Bandit. The back door was open, so I ran inside and found him hiding,’’ Banach said.
Her neighbors brought her dog in the house when the attack was over, but Banach said Crash was already dead.
Linda Gentile, owner of Shore Animal Control, the townships animal control provider, said the owners of the dogs were charged with destruction of property and dog at large offenses.
However, she could not name the subjects because of ongoing legal proceedings.
Although initial reports were of loose pit bulls, Gentile said the dog that killed Crash was a Mastiff. The other dog’s breed was unknown, but it did not take part in attacking the dog.
Gentile said the owner of the Mastiff told animal control that he surrendered the dog to a shelter, but they have been unable to determine which shelter and have been unable to contact the owner.
“The owner told us he was in the process of moving, and the dogs got loose when a Realtor left a gate open,” Gentile explained.
When the case goes before a judge, the jurist could determine the Mastiff's fate. Serious attacks on humans result in euthanasia; however, attacks on other animals are dealt with on a case-by-case basis.
Gentile said loose dogs are not only a danger to people and other animals but are in danger themselves.
Loose Dogs a Danger
“We are always on patrol looking for loose dogs for reasons such as this case. Loose dogs are also in danger of being hit by cars. That is why we are proponents of spay and neuter. We had four cases of dogs being hit by cars in Cape May County this year. All were so badly injured they were killed by the car or had to be euthanized,” Gentile said, adding that all four were unaltered males.
“Licensing is important, too,” Gentile explained. “If a dog has a license, we know that it is up to date with rabies shots. That saves anyone who is bitten from possibly having to go through the rabies treatment. The license also gets a loose dog back to its owner.”
Animal control operates year-round in the township and steps up operations during the summer months to regulate dogs on beaches.
Gentile said Shore Animal Control is going door to door in the near future to check for licenses and to do an animal census.
“If an owner doesn’t have a license, we issue a warning and give them a chance to comply. We really want to ensure owners get their animals a rabies vaccine,” Gentile said.
LaRosa said he was shocked by the incident and hopes the township will do more to keep dogs from running the streets.
“I served in the Marine Corps, in Vietnam, and was awarded a Purple Heart, the Bronze Star, and a Navy Commendation. I didn’t think I would spend my retirement at the shore fighting off stray dogs. This is a nice area. People are fixing up their homes. We shouldn’t have to worry about loose dogs.”
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