Neighbor rescues man and dogs
from attacking pit bulls
Originally ran here
Man guns down attacking pit bulls
By ERICH SEAN-PAUL SPIVEY
Special to The Gainesville Sun
Thursday, August 7, 2001
John Woods was brushing his teeth, getting
ready for church Sunday morning. He had been absent from Trinity United
Methodist Church for two months and was determined to get back into the
After undergoing surgery from a pit bull attack on
NW 45th Avenue in Gainesville on Sunday morning, John Sabatella and his
Australian shepherd, Nicki, rested at home on Monday. "It was
horrible," said Sabatella, who also suffered severe injuries to his
ring finger on his left hand, his arms and legs. MARLA BROSE/The
But his anticipated return had to wait another
week as church took a backseat to helping neighbor John Sabatella and his dogs,
who were being attacked by two stray pit bulls.
With three shots from a .357-caliber Magnum
revolver, Woods shot and killed the attacking dogs.
"My neighbor came crashing through the
door and said, 'Two pit bulls are killing my husband and my dog,' " Woods,
72, said Monday. "I loaded my pistol and shot one dog in the shoulder. It
probably hit his heart.
"Thank God I hadn't left for church
With his wife, Vicki, jogging next to him,
Sabatella was riding a bicycle with his dog on a leash when the pit bulls
attacked his dog about 10:30 a.m. Sunday. Sabatella tried to break up the dog
fight and then the pit bulls began attacking him. Sabatella said he suffered
severe injuries to his ring finger on his left hand, his arms and legs.
Vicki ran into Woods' house asking for help.
Woods called 911 before shooting the dogs.
"The brutality of the attack was totally
unexpected," Sabatella said. "The bite felt like a vice grip with
"He is in a lot of pain," said Ruth
Sabatella, John's mother. "Once those pit bulls get going, they don't
The attack occurred in Woods' front yard at
3039 NW 45th Ave. in the Northwood neighborhood.
Woods fired one bullet and killed the first pit
bull, which was attacking Sabatella's male Australian shepherd. The second pit
bull was shot twice while running toward Woods. About 12 people were in the
immediate shooting area.
Before Woods killed the dogs, motorist Andrew
Serfozo tried to fight the pit bulls away with a fire extinguisher to no avail.
"It was a helpless scenario until (Woods)
came," Sabatella said.
Gainesville Police Department spokesman Keith
Kameg said no charges are pending. According to the police report, Woods' action
saved Sabatella from serious injury or death.
The pit bulls were not wearing identification
tags and weighed about 60 pounds each, according to Alachua County Animal
Services field operations Supervisor Cindy Bishop.
Woods said another neighbor stopped by just
before the attack wanting to call animal control about two similar pit bulls.
But an unidentified person showed up and put the dogs in his white van.
After the complaining neighbor left the area,
Woods said he saw the man let the two dogs loose. Woods said he believed the
same pit bulls attacked Sabatella a few minutes later.
Bishop said Animal Services is trying to find
the owner of the pit bulls. The carcases were transported to a Tallahassee
laboratory for rabies testing.
The chance Sabatella caught rabies is small,
Bishop said, but testing is normal procedure. The results will be available by
the end of this week.
But for now, Sabatella was thankful Woods was
equipped to handle the attacking pit bulls.
Woods said, "I don't envision myself as
the community watchdog. I just happened to be in the right place at the right
time. I'll let my son handle security. He works part time as a security guard in
And Woods said he doesn't deserve the hero tag
next to his name.
"I didn't wake up Sunday morning and say
today will be a good day to be a hero," he said. "You just do what you
have to do."
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