horse maul

Photo COURTESY ACSO/Special to alachua County Today

ADSO Deputy Montana Sayers and Dr. Randy Emmons, DVM, tend to injured horses that were attacked by dogs.  Only two out of five mini horses survived.

ALACHUA – John Weber calls it the war zone because as of Monday afternoon, he hadn’t cleaned up the blood splattered across the wall of the stables that once housed his five miniature horses.

According to Alachua County Sheriff’s Office (ACSO), deputies responded to 12808 NW 142nd Terr. in Alachua on Sunday, Oct. 4 to the report of aggressive dogs that had mauled a group of miniature horses. Upon arrival, deputies encountered several severely injured horses, the report said.

“One of the animals sustained fatal wounds from the dog (s) and another horse had to be put down due to the severity of its injuries,” the report continues. “Deputies used their issued trauma kits to provide emergency medical treatment to the other horses and contacted Dr. Randy Emmons, DVM, who responded to the scene to provide veterinary services to the surviving animals.”

By Monday morning, a third horse had died, said 69-year-old owner Weber. And, according to ACSO Public Information Officer Art Forgey, the case was handed over to the Alachua County Animal Services.

“Sparky, the little white one, died this morning,” Weber said while standing near the stalls where the incident happened.

“One mare was dead right here,” he said as he pointed to the doorway. “The others got attacked in here,” he said as he pointed to the blood-stained stalls.

“I’ve got two of them left,” he said of his heard of five purebred miniature horses.

“The mother took good care of them. She kicked the hell out of those dogs.

“There was five here, three of them got killed. Bella, my wife’s first horse was four. Another mare here was 17, she belonged to my vet. She got killed right over here. And the little stud, Sparky, died in my son’s arms when we moved him today.”

Weber buried all three horses in the pasture on Monday in an 8-foot deep grave, he said. Now, he said he wants to meet the owner of the dogs.

According to Forgey, Christa Goon was determined to be the owner.

“Goon was out of town and care for the dogs was being handled by Edmond Sermons,” Forgey stated in an email. According to the report, Sermons was contacted and advised the dogs escaped from the house where he was caring for them. Sermons was issued a citation for the dogs being at large by Animal Control Officer Kirby. Both dogs were seized by animal control.”

When Weber’s grandson arrived home from school on Monday, Oct. 5, he ran to the stall where Sparky was resting earlier that morning.

The A.L. Mebane Middle School student called out to Sparky, but as he approached the stall and realized it was empty, Weber delivered the bad news.

“Sparky was five months old,” Weber said. “My grandson named him.”

Weber’s wife Nancy has been up in New York since the attack happened and at first, he said he wasn’t going to tell her until she came home, but Weber said social media postings forced him to share the bad news.

“She was up there picking apples to bring home for the horses,” he said.

Weber plans to bleach the scene and paint the stalls with a fresh coat of white paint, he said.

He’s already taken wire panels used for a dog kennel apart and started putting them up around the pasture to keep another attack from happening.

The incident is not something he will ever forget the details of, he said.

“The dogs were over the top of here,” he said. “A dark brown and lighter colored one.”

The remaining two horses were skittish at first, but are starting to let visitors approach them.

“Wendy and her baby,” he said. “Wendy got cut underneath her jaw. Under her chin, big time, and they grabbed her hind leg. Curly Sue got just a scratch on her leg.

Weber is still not sure why the dogs attacked his horses and none of the livestock nearby.

“My neighbor’s got goats, they never touched them,” he said. “Why they came through here, I don’t know. And they went for the barn. That’s what got me.

“It’s life though. The ironic part is, that the goat up there was my granddaughter’s 4-H goat. That goat was in the corner shaking.

While the last two horses grazed in the pasture on Monday, Weber asked a question out loud as he watched them.

“I’ll always wonder, will they remember what they saw?”

He turned his attention back to Curly Sue, the smallest and youngest survivor.

“I’m glad she didn’t get hurt,” he said. “That’s my wife’s baby, right there. Her foot is still a little tender. The vet says she’ll be fine.”

Weber said he’ll be writing a letter to ACSO Sheriff Sadie Darnell about how deputies treated him and his herd.

He tears up when he explains what one deputy did upon arrival.

“The deputy stayed here the whole time,” he said about Deputy Montana Sayers.

“The lady was in the pen with a compress on that horse for 45 minutes trying to stop the bleeding.

“All she asked for was two things, he said.

“She wanted a bucket to sit on and she said, ‘give me some tissues.’ ”

“They were absolutely awesome,” he added.

“I’m not going to be mad,” Weber said about his upcoming meeting with the owner of the dogs who was away in Arizona when the attack happened.

“I don’t hold it against the dogs. I hold it against the owners.”

Other attacks

When Weber’s neighbor on the same street saw the news posted on ACSO’s Facebook page, she commented that her family has also had pets attacked and killed by dogs of similar description.

“I used to take my children to the bus stop,” Tracey Neel said.

But a year ago, a dog came out and tried to attack us,” she said. “We had to hide at our landlord’s house.”

Both Neel and Weber live within less than half a mile from W. W. Irby Elementary School located at 13505 NW 140th St.

Neel describes one dog as black and the other as blonde or brown that have both come to her fenced in yard on multiple occasions.

“It still comes in our yard from time to time,” she said about one of the dogs. “ It’s been probably two weeks since they we have seen the black dog.”

According to Neel, who resides five houses north of Weber on the same street at 13208 NW 142 Terr., she called Alachua County Animal Services last year when the dog was out back by the rabbit hutch and “ an hour later, the dog was gone, the rabbit was gone and we never saw animal control.”

According to a Alachua County Animal Services, a report of a dog attack was filed by Neel on Oct. 16, 2014, but the report says Neel called back and cancelled when the dogs left. At that point animal services did not pursue the incident, said Animal Services Field Investigator Darla Farnell.

“We lost the one rabbit one week and the next week, the other one was dead in the yard,” Neel said.

Dogs tipped over a rabbit house to get to the two rabbits.

“There have been dog issues in this area,” Neel said. “I can honestly say I don’t feel comfortable walking my kids to and from the bus stop every day.

“It was nothing dramatic like the horses, but it was for my daughter. With the black dog, we don’t know where it’s from. We keep our gate closed, we also now have a dog.”

According to Forgey, in these cases where animals get loose and kill pets or livestock on another property, the cases are turned over to Animal Services.

“Ultimately, the owner of the horse, to recover any money he is out, would have to sue,” Forgey said about recovery losses.

As of press time, Alachua County Animal Services maintained custody of the two dogs which are now part of an Aggressive Dog Investigation.

“We collect evidence and witness statements, records, documentation,” Farnell explained.

The official citation issued to Edmond according to Farnell was a violation of Ordinance 72.21 “companion animals creating a public nuisance.”

Weber said the dogs' owner still had not returned home and he hasn't spoken to her.

“I'm going to let my attorney do his work,” he said on Tuesday.

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CSX crews started to weld the rails for a crossing on SR 235 but the project has been delayed by the FDOT and rescheduled for after Jan. 1, 2016.

ALACHUA – The Florida Department of Transportation directed CSX Corporation railroad company on Tuesday to put the brakes on replacing the crossing at State Road 235 and Peggy Road in Alachua.

On Sept. 28, CSX began welding new rails with the intent of starting the actual replacement process on Oct. 12. But the next day, the FDOT contacted CSX to inform the rail company that the crossing replacement project is being postponed until after Jan. 1, 2016.

According to CSX Spokesperson Kristin Seay, “CSX was just notified by FDOT that they are postponing this crossing until after January 2016, due to a conflict with detours for some road work on I-75.”

Drivers heading north on SR 235 have gotten used to swerving wide to the east side of the crossing to avoid the uneven pavement and rail connection. They’ll have to wait another few months before the crossing gets smoothed out.

According to FDOT Spokesperson Rebecca Leigh White, the FDOT decided both projects happening at the same time would create too many detours and lane changes at once and, for safety and convenience of the drivers and the community, they put the I-75 resurfacing project ahead of the rail crossing.

“The work under the overpass would have been part of the detour route for the railroad replacement,” White said.

The contract start time for the I-75 resurfacing project started ticking on Sept. 18, White said.

“The part of the I-75 resurfacing project between south of SR 222 in Gainesville to just north of 441 will connect to the current resurfacing project there,” White said.

In the end, the $11.4 million FDOT resurfacing project will upgrade more than 60 miles between Columbia County and Ocala, White said.

The FDOT is in the process of notifying media with details on dates of construction and traffic pattern changes,” White said.

The project in Alachua at I-75 and U.S. Highway 441 will last about three months, she added.

As for the rail crossing, Seay said that CSX will be completely rebuilding the structure.

“They have to tear out all of the crossing material that is there now,” she said. “The ties, the rails. They’ll be putting in new rails and ties and then putting fresh concrete over the crossing surface and repaving the approach to the crossing on both sides.”

“The State identifies the schedule for how long crossings are expected to last and it’s just time for this one to be rebuilt,” Seay said.

“They base it on expected wear and tear and the amount of traffic.”

“A bulletin will go out prior to the road closure,” Seay said about when CSX picks up where they left off.

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SUZETTE COOK/Alachua County Today

The Santa Fe Pop Warner program will get a new scoreboard courtesy of Alachua Chamber of Commerce and the Dollar General Sportfest, Capital City Bank Shootout proceeds. The new $15,000 board will replace a broken board that stopped working recently. From left to right Bill Lang of Pop Warner, Edward Potts, President of Alachua Chamber of Commerce, David Pope, Chairman of Sportsfest Committee, Board of Directors, Alachua Chamber of Commerce, Waco Properties, Don James, Capital City Bank, Gib Coerper, Mayor City of Alachua, Jerry Smith, Board of Directors, Alachua Chamber of Commerce, Jennifer Thompson, Capital City Bank and Sandy Burgess, Board of Directors, Alachua Chamber of Commerce, Burgess Management Services. Players Holden Mitrione, 10, Brennan Kade, 11 and Makhi Lewis, 10 say the scoreboard will help them keep track of time during the game.

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LACROSSE – Now that the small Town of LaCrosse, Florida, has finalized their 2015/2016 fiscal year budget, some issues relating to their fire services have finally been settled, while some remain to be negotiated.

The town, which houses fire/rescue services for District 22, will continue to maintain its fire station for the 94-sq.-mile district, most of which is in unincorporated Alachua County. In order to do so, the town council had to come up with an additional $50,000 over the $140,764.59 that Alachua County pays the LaCrosse for fire/rescue services.

Once the Alachua County Board of County Commission (BOCC) denied the town their requested increase on Aug. 13, the town council had to seek funding elsewhere. Since the millage rate hadn't been raised in LaCrosse for 35 years and was the lowest in the County at 2.7173 mills, the town council voted unanimously on Aug. 24 to ask for an increase to 7.7173 mills.

The additional $50,000 expected to be earned by the increase was earmarked to pay for another trained fire person, which would provide two-person coverage 24/7, and to provide modest salary increases for their full-time personnel.

Although the council was not able to pass the requested five mill increase, on Sept. 21 they did approve an increase of three mills, bringing their new millage rate to 5.7173. The council also voted to use $20,000 from their reserve funds to supplement the remaining shortfall.

“This is something we can do for this year,” said Mayor Dianne Dubberly, “but the town cannot afford to continue to supplement the fire station in the future. We will have to come back and ask for a two mill increase for the 2016/2017 fiscal year,” she said.

The council also voted to authorize another $20,000 to be expended from reserves to help bring the fire station building up to code, said Dubberly. Electrical repairs, a small roof repair, power washing the building and painting are all expected to be scheduled according to Dubberly.

“Most of our citizens who questioned the reason for such a large millage increase in one year were satisfied to learn that the millage rate increase was for the purpose of maintaining local fire/rescue services,” said Dubberly. “One of our business owners said he would have to close up shop if fire services were not provided locally,” she said. “And of course the people living in the unincorporated areas would not have seen a millage increase as they were already part of the county's Municipal Services Taxing Unit (MSTU).

Still up in the air is a decision regarding a pumper truck the county offered LaCrosse as part of their agreement for continuation of county fire services funding. During BOCC discussion Vice-Chair Robert “Hutch” Hutchinson proposed giving the pumper to LaCrosse with a full tank of gas. However, Commissioner Ken Cornell proposed the tanker be returned to the county if the Town of LaCrosse ceases to provide fire/rescue services in the future.

“We have a pumper and engine or tanker truck in LaCrosse already,” said Dubberly. “What we need is a four-wheel drive vehicle for quick medical emergency response and the ability to get to homes located on dirt roads filled with potholes,” said Dubberly. “We have some concerns about the condition of the vehicle the county wants to provide us, but we thought we could sell it to help us purchase the four-wheel drive vehicle if the county's vehicle is not in better condition than our own. With Commissioner Cornell's comment, we will not be able to do that.”

LaCrosse Fire Chief Paul McDavid and Councilman Tom Ewing are still negotiating with Alachua County Fire Chief Bill Northcutt on that issue, said Dubberly.

Meanwhile, the LaCrosse Town Council is expected to meet again on Oct. 12 to consider modest raises for their chief, assistant chief and full-time fire personnel and to learn the outcome of negotiations with Northcutt regarding the tanker.

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Photos by SUZETTE COOK/Alachua County Today
Kris Hersom and her son Sam pray with runners and volunteers at the Fourth Annual Sam Strong Run 2 End Duchenne 5K held in Newberry on Sept. 19 at Newberry Elementary School.

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Sid Martin Biotechnology faciltiy to host reunion
for fifth-graders who created lobby art 20 years ago

2015-06-29 Biotechnology Development Institute Artwork-7945yx

Special to Alachua Today


ALACHUA–Twenty years ago, 29 fifth graders from Alachua Elementary School created mosaic art for the Sid Martin Biotechnology building in Progress Park. They worked with Miami artist Carlos Alvez and their art has been a huge hit with visitors and clients.
It was part of Florida’s Art in Public Buildings program and was done to introduce Alachua residents to biotechnology by engaging their kids in science and art.
Any of those 29 students listed below who are still living in the area, are invited to be honored guests at a reunion to see their artwork again, hear how important it’s been to Sid Martin’s internationally recognized program, and view a short film taken 20 years showing them making the art.
They should RSVP for the Alachua Business League Meet and Greet event being held on Wednesday, Sept. 30 at 5:30 p.m. at UF’s Sid Martin Biotechnology Incubator, 12085 Research Dr. in Alachua. They can contact Christine Bruton at or phone 386-462-0880.
The artists are: Adam Knight, Becky Heitzman, Brandi Slean, Brandon Imler, Bryce Hartley, Chris Snyder, Clayton Tucker, Cynthia Upper, Dawn Alligood, Derek Holton, Duane Johnson, Elijah Croce, Holly McIlvaine, Jared LeFave, Jason Dampier, Jessica Kriechbaum, Jessica O’Steen, Jill Dixon, Jonathan Guay, Jun Komiya, Kristen Beckerink, Matthew Cutler-Holt, Michael Turner, Ross Whitty, Sam Murphy, Sisene Midget, Stacy Bingham Joyner, Thomas Wicks.
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Spring hunters 3

Photo courtesy TRAVIS MARQUES/Special to Alachua County Today

Left to right, Jhwum Ki-ak, Joe Cruz and Travis Marques go on the hunt for springs tucked away in Florida. They founded a Facebook page called “Spring Hunters” where spring enthusiasts could share information about and post images taken at springs throughout Florida.


Special to Alachua County Today

FLORIDA – One day, not long ago, two springs enthusiasts started to notice each other’s photographs of Florida’s springs on different Facebook photography and nature pages. One would “like” the other’s photograph, and the other would “comment” on the other’s post.

When the two saw that they both had the “Springs Spirit,” that’s where it all began.
Not long after, the two met up to go and explore. Myself, I was accompanied by my significant other, Angel Hall, and Baby Jackson. Joe Cruz was traveling solo. Our first meeting was to go and explore or “hunt” a beautiful, little spring seep that I knew of in the Ocala National Forest known as Mormon Branch. Joe, Angel, Baby Jackson, and myself, trudged the clear shallow run as far upstream as we could go before the creek became impassable. Once the sun started to set, we parted ways.
Our next meeting was in Enterprise at the Enterprise Heritage Center. Rick Kilby was giving a presentation on “Florida’s Fountains of Youth.”
I knew Rick, like myself, had a love for Old Florida. I thought that since we had been communicating via social media, this would be a good opportunity for us all to meet and while we were at it, to go and see an “old Florida spring.” This time, it was Joe’s turn to show us the way. After Rick’s presentation, Rick, Phil Eschbach, Angel, and myself drove to Green Springs.
We parked and made the trek to the hidden, tucked away Enterprise Spring. Somewhere along the journey, Phil coined the term “Spring Hunters”. So we were born.
Soon after, Joe started this page. At first, we weren’t sure if people would “get it”. It didn’t take long before we found out that we shared a common outlook and love for the springs that so many others felt and could relate to.
Early on, Jhwum Ki-ak blessed us with the holy grail of interactive springs maps. I remember the first time that I saw it! He shared it to my Florida’s Hidden Gems page.
I almost wanted to keep the wonderful tool for myself in fear that it may fall into the wrong hands. However, it has since become my favorite springs exploration tool, right along with my GPS, machete, snorkel and mask, snake boots, and of course, my camera.
It is an automatic reference that I like to provide when people ask about springs locations. The map is updated by Jhwum periodically as new springs or seeps are “discovered”.
As the page started to grow, we decided to take on another administrator. John Starrett was sharing some amazing underwater images of lesser known springs up in the north western part of the state.
He displayed the same spirit of exploration of forgotten Florida that we could relate to. Being from the panhandle, he became our link to the far end of our state. He was the perfect candidate.
The page continues to grow... We want to thank you all for all of your support, contributions, and questions.
I want to give a special thanks to Rick Kilby for designing, donating, and allowing us to use the logo that we have.

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