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Animal Control missed compliance check before vicious dog attack on Lakeland Electric worker

Dog owner did not post "dangerous dog" signs
Posted at 11:37 PM, Mar 13, 2017

ABC Action News has learned, the second dog involved in a vicious attack on a Lakeland Electric worker is back home.

But we've uncovered that Polk County Animal Control missed a critical check that some neighbors believe may have kept the worker safe.

Linda Dionne was attacked while attempting to turn off a utility meter February 13 at 941 Fish Hatchery Road.

A responding deputy shot the 3-year-old rose nose pit bull, Sofia, because it was mauling Dionne, then, turned on him.

A second dog, Haze, was taken into custody by animal control for showing aggressive behavior.

The dog's owner, Matthew Overton, was charged with for not properly securing the dog and not properly posting his property.

Sofia was declared "dangerous" by animal control from a June attack on neighbor Pat Jeffries.

"When I couldn't get the dog away from me, I was, I was literally afraid that I was going to be attacked myself and be mauled," said Jeffries, recalling the June encounter.

According to the Polk County Sheriff's Office, Sofia was declared dangerous October 28, but she still went home to Overton.

Turns out, Overton was supposed to post "dangerous dog" warning signs at the edge of his property after Sofia returned home, but those signs never went up.

Polk County Animal Control is supposed to conduct code compliance checks, ensuring signs are posted and dangerous dogs are not left wondering freely on a property.

The compliance check for signs about Sofia being dangerous had not been done before the Lakeland Electric worker was attacked.  

Polk County told ABC Action News, they experienced a staffing "crisis" following Sofia's return home.

"Unfortunately, AC only has 2 full-time dangerous dog investigators (DDI) and as of October 28, one of them resigned to take another job," said PCSO spokesperson Carrie Horstman. "That left us with one full-time DDI, who has to prioritize the investigations in this order: the cases that were actively being investigated in the court system, the new cases coming in, and compliance checks."

Dangerous dog warning signs are now up outside Overton's property, a requirement now that Haze is back home.

Polk County says Animal Control has hired a new dangerous dog investigator, who started the job Monday. 

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