Recent discussions at the county commission level have focused on leashless dogs running free on county beaches, but they are not the only places where this occurs.
And in one terrifying incident last week, it led to the killing of a woman’s beloved pet.
At about 12:30 a.m. on Monday, July 1, Amy Emswiler let her long-haired weenie dog, MoMo, a comfort dog that has been by her side for the past seven years, especially recently, after she was diagnosed with cancer, out to pee.
MoMo was on his way into the family’s fenced-in yard on NE 2nd Street in Carrabelle when a pit bull suddenly sprang out of the darkness.
“Out of nowhere this pit appeared and grabbed my precious MoMo by the throat,” she said. “I tried to save him, we hit that dog with everything, we broke shovels on his head. We fought that dog for 30 minutes.”
Alerted by a call from a person driving by who heard Emswiler’s screams, Carrabelle Police Officer Lawrence Brannan was on his way, prepared to shoot the dog.
Before he could arrive, a relative arrived with a hunting rifle and shot the dog three times, killing it, but not before the 100-pound pit had snuffed out the 30-pound MoMo’s life.
“My sweet MoMo suffered greatly and I can't get the images out of my head,” said Emswiler. “I miss him so much.
“I know all the dogs in the neighborhood, I’d never seen this dog before,” she said. “He made no sound. He had no collar, and he was well-groomed. He looked very well-fed. He didn’t look like he had been running the streets.”
In addition to the response by a city policeman and a deputy sheriff, Albert Floyd, with county animal control, came by. They searched to find the owner of the pit bull, but without a collar or a microchip, they could not.
“The dog was not tagged and we had no way to trace it, no microchip or anything like that,” said Fonda Davis, director of animal control. “Any dog is capable of being dangerous, any dog is capable of being aggressive. When you’re dealing with dogs, you’re dealing with animals.”
He said that if it was a first infraction for running loose, it would be a $25 fine. Since it had bitten, the dog, were it alive, would be quarantined for rabies, with the bite a possible $250 fine.
“It would be up to the individual to seek any other money,” Davis said.
Karen Martin, director of the Franklin County Humane Society, said it is required that all dogs be kept under control.
At a recent county commission meeting, County Attorney Michael Shuler reminded commissioners that the current law calls for dogs on beaches to on a leash, so there is no need to revise the ordinance. He said while there are some exceptions, such as with police or military dogs, when dogs need only be under voice control, it does not apply to beaches.
“It is incumbent on every owner to be in direct control of their pet at all times, whether that be in a fenced-in area or on a leash,” said Martin.
“It’s always best to have an animal microchipped, that would be very good, very helpful,” she said.
“I think in this county the reason why people come is we are dog friendly,” Martin said. “But that doesn't mean dogs should be allowed to run rampant. Dogs should always be on a leash on the beach.
“Dogs sometimes can be unpredictable. They may have never acted a certain way but they do this time,” she said. “I don’t care how good Fido is. It’s a must do. You don’t know what is going to trigger an animal. They see something small and moving and it can happen, whether it be a small child or a small dog.
“No dog’s behavior is guaranteed under every circumstance and that’s why they must be contained,” Martin said.
She said she would like to see all dogs licensed in the county; right now all they require is a rabies vaccination.
But she acknowledged that animal control, which right now has just two full-time employees who work the entire county on weekdays and are on calls for emergencies on weekends, does not have the staff to handle licensure.
Martin said the shelter currently is full of pets available for adoption, with 47 dogs and puppies and 50 cats and kittens.
“We are beyond capacity, please come adopt,” she said.
To reach the humane society, call 670-8417.