Updated: 7:15 p.m. May 3
Four pit bull dogs broke out of their fenced yard and attacked a neighbor's chickens Saturday, April 30, killing 20 chickens and ripping the head off a cat, according to a Sheriff's Office report. Deputies and an animal control worker found five more dogs left caged in sweltering heat with no food or water.
A detective notified a deputy at about 9:55 a.m. that there were four or five pit bulls running wild around Forest Park Street and Clove Avenue in the Daytona North community in western Flagler County, attacking pets and livestock. Rounding the dogs up would take until about 3:47 p.m.
A deputy who arrived at the scene saw four dogs — two white and tan dogs, one white dog with "a serious skin condition," and one black and brown dog — running around near the intersection.
None had a collar on.
But when the deputy pulled up in a patrol car, the dogs ran into a yard at 2430 Forest Park Street — three of them through an open gate, and the other through a hole in the fence.
A witness, 60-year-old James William Hann, arrived and said the dogs had gotten into his chickens at his home on Clove Avenue, and "that the dogs killed every last one of them, and also ripped the head off a cat at another unknown residence," according to the deputy's report. Hann said the dogs had killed a total of 20 chickens.
A deputy tried to contact the owner of the home the dogs ran to — 31-year-old William Harland Cooper — and left a voicemail.
An animal control worker arrived to help capture the dogs, since they'd killed other animals and it wasn't clear who they belonged to. The animal control worker caught two of the four dogs at the front gate, but needed deputies to help her capture the other two, which ran to the rear of the home.
While the deputies and the animal control worker tried to corner the dogs, the dogs ran into the trailer through an open rear door. The animal control worker and the deputies saw "five more dogs in cages without food or water."
The animal control worker took photographs, and deputies gave the dogs water "due to the extreme heat," according to the report.
The animal control worker — still not entirely certain that the home the dogs ran to was the one they actually belonged to — decided to leave a notice for the homeowner and leave the other two dogs on the property.
It was a "crazy situation," Humane Society Director Amy-Wade Carotenuto said, and the animal control worker "posted a notice saying, 'There were dogs that ran inside your trailer, if they are not yours, don't go inside, call us.'"
The deputies secured the home so the dogs wouldn't run out again.
As deputies left the home, Cooper called the Sheriff's Office, demanding to know why deputies had entered his property even though he had "no trespassing" signs up. A Sheriff's Office corporal told him they had entered in the legal performance of their duties.
Cooper, who was "very upset," a deputy wrote in a report, confirmed that the dogs were his and said he was in Daytona Beach and would be back in an hour, and that he wanted his dogs back in an hour. If they weren't, he said, he'd sue the Sheriff's Office for entering his property.
A deputy told Cooper he'd have to contact animal control about getting his dogs back. Cooper swore at the deputy and asked the deputy to issue a trespass order to keep animal control officers off his property.
The deputy said no, and told Cooper to watch his language or the deputy would end the call. Cooper, according to the deputy's report, "became irate and began screaming and using foul language with me again," then said he'd contact the State Attorney's Office and get everyone involved charged with breaking and entering, trespassing, and theft.
Cooper himself has a criminal record, according to Volusia County Sheriff's Office and court records. He was charged in Volusia County with three counts of battery in April 2015 — one count was felony battery on a law enforcement officer — and found guilty of simple battery after the State Attorney's Office dropped the battery on a law enforcement officer charge.
The Flagler County deputy told Cooper he was hanging up after Cooper, screaming profanities, yelled that he was suing the Sheriff's Office.
Wade-Carotenuto said the morning of May 3 that Cooper had since taken his two dogs back — though collarless, they were microchipped, she noted — and that animal control will follow up with Cooper. He has been issued four citations, for the four dogs running at large, Wade-Carotenuto said.
"With any case, if we're called out on a stray animal situation, but while we're on site we see animals that are in conditions that aren't what we want to see, we'll do a follow-up and check, and hopefully educate them," she said. "Hopefully, it was sort a of one-time thing, and little bit of education will make that turn around."
The fact that there were four dogs involved hampered animal control from taking further action about the killing of the chickens: It was hard to tell, after the fact, which individual dog or dogs actually killed chickens.
Wade-Carotenuto said in response to a reporter's question that there was no evidence the dogs had been used for fighting, and that the five dogs found caged were not pit bulls, but various hounds or hound mixes.
When sending animal control officers out to situation with an angry owner, animal control asks for deputies to come along, she said. "The nine pit bulls, that's the easy part," Wade-Carotenuto said. "It’s the people that are swearing at us that are more dangerous."