Virginia Brissette Hirshik wanted one thing during a Tuesday night neighborhood meeting: an apology from Alachua County Animal Services Director Ed Williams.
“Are you sorry this is happening in our neighborhood?” Hirshik, 51, asked Williams. “I want to hear you say I am sorry your neighborhood had to live through this hell.”
Williams apologized and said he did not come to this discussion to get bullied; he came to help.
The neighborhoods of Northwood Pines and Northwood Oaks have experienced a series of dog attacks over the last eight months. Tempers flared as about 25 members of the neighborhood met with Williams, Gainesville Police officers and Gainesville City Commissioner Harvey Ward to discuss changes already made and what is still left to do.
On April 9, the Alachua County Commission passed the Irresponsible Owner Clause that aims to protect citizens and animals from owners who fail to care for their pets.
If a pet owner fails to care for their pets in any way, which includes a pet attacking someone else, they are placed on an irresponsible owners list, Williams said. After three violations, owners will be penalized.
Questions ranged from what will be done to owners of aggressive pets, how these cases will be followed up on and what rights the neighbors have when it comes to protecting themselves.
At times, the discussion became more of an argument with residents yelling questions over each other and cutting off officials when they tried to answer.
Multiple residents voiced concerns about a lack of urgency when calls are made about aggressive animals.
Williams said the delay in action is due to residents not reporting their concerns.
Gainesville Police Captain Jaime Kurnick said another meeting will be scheduled in two weeks to answer remaining community questions.
Elizabeth Carrillo, 56, lives in the area and said she is afraid to walk her dogs. She expressed issues of trying to call authorities without receiving help and lack of care from irresponsible owners.
“I was basically told, ‘Unless the dog is doing something bad at this moment, don’t call us,’” she said. “Some of these dogs scare the sh-- out of me.”
Gainesville resident Elizabeth Carrillo, 56, talks about recent dog attacks to three Gainesville Police officers at a neighborhood meeting Tuesday night.