LATEST: Riviera Beach worker attacked by dogs ‘feared for my life’

Bernard Jones was picking up trash Tuesday when he saw the dogs coming at him. Fearing it would be worse to run, he turned and faced the two animals.

“I was in fear for my life. Absolutely,” the 58-year-old Riviera Beach city worker said Thursday as he recovered from multiple bites at his home in the city.

“I got stitches all over me,” he said, grunting in pain. “One. Two. Three. Four. About five different cuts.”

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Terence Jamar Lark, the city resident cited after the dogs broke out of his Riviera Beach yard and assaulted Jones, faces hundreds of dollars in fines, and his dogs might be put down. But he likely won't be charged criminally, according to Palm Beach County Animal Care and Control.

The bar set in Florida law is just too high in such incidents, the agency's top investigator said.

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Jones, who’s worked for four years as a “public-service ambassador” for the city’s Community Redevelopment Agency, was attacked at about 9:45 a.m Tuesday as he picked up trash near the Walgreens pharmacy at Broadway and Blue Heron Boulevard. Jones’ duties include policing areas for trash, doing “meet-and-greets” with residents, and helping to give people directions.

Animal Care and Control said the pit bull-mix breeds had pushed through a board and escaped from a fenced yard a few doors away.

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Jones said he was able to ward off the female, but then the male came at him and the female followed.

The Animal Care and Control report said Jones suffered punctures on both thighs, chest scratches, knee abrasions and “severe lacerations to his left thumb area and right wrist.”

Jones confirmed those were defensive wounds from fighting off the dogs. He said the dogs swarmed him for a good five minutes before workers at a nearby car wash noticed the commotion and raced over to separate the animals.

“They saved my life,” Jones said.

Jones was taken to St. Mary's Medical Center in West Palm Beach but was able to go home later that day.

“I'm OK so far,” Jones said. “I'm just sore. That's all.”

He said the dogs might just have been protecting their puppies.

“Can’t blame the dogs,” he said. “Should have fixed the fence.”

The Animal Care and Control report said Riviera Beach police responded, but a city spokeswoman said police reports weren’t immediately available.

Animal Care and Control cited Lark, 41, for having a loose animal, for not having given it proper shots and tags and for not having a proper permit for small-scale “hobby breeding.” He faces potential fines totaling about $500.

Lark said Thursday he had no comment.

The report said Lark acknowledged ownership of the 4-year-old, 60-to-70 pound, tan-and-white female, known as “Pretty Girl,” and the three puppies, but denied owning the 70-to-80 pound male, whose name is not in the report. But he refused to identify its owner, so Animal Care and Control listed him as owner of all the dogs, the report said.

“Mr. Lark became slightly upset that I was also taking the puppies, with their mother, as he had plans to sell them," the Animal Care and Control report said.

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If the dogs clear quarantine after 10 days, Animal Care and Control then would start an investigation that would lead to a hearing, which could end with the dogs being killed, Capt. David Walesky said this week. 

Under Florida statute 767.136, it's a crime if a dog that hasn't been declared dangerous attacks and seriously injures or kills a person, and the owner had knowledge of the animals’ "dangerous propensities, yet demonstrated a reckless disregard for such propensities under the circumstances." The crime would be a second-degree misdemeanor, punishable by up to 15 years in prison and fines of up to $10,000.

The charge rarely is filed because the threshold "is pretty high," Walesky said, "Everything is under investigation, but at this point what we have does not meet the threshold of a criminal prosecution."

Lark has four unrelated arrests since 2007, records show.

In 2006, Lark was convicted of battery and placed on probation. In 2007, he was convicted of cocaine possession and was sentenced to time served, about two months. And in May 2017, he was arrested on charges of drug possession and sales and possession of a weapon as a felon. A heroin sale charge was dropped, and prosecutors did not proceed on the weapon charge. The other charges are active. 

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