PUTNAM COUNTY, Fla. – The family of a Putnam County mail carrier fatally attacked by dogs in August is now demanding accountability.
The News4JAX I-TEAM previously obtained documents showing the dogs’ owner was not charged in part because he had tried unsuccessfully to surrender them to Putnam County Animal Control twice — including just 10 days before the deadly attack on Pamela Rock.
The I-TEAM recently spoke with Rock’s family in their first interview. Rock, 61, was the youngest sister of 14 siblings, including Tom Rock, Maria Rock-Risse and Richard Rock. She was also an aunt of 19 nieces and nephews.
“She would be at their graduations, any of their programs that they invited her to,” said Maria Rock-Risse as she choked back tears.
The family is devastated by what happened to Pamela Rock, and now, they are asking for an investigation into a series of events leading up to the attack. They feel this could have been prevented and they want to see change.
“Pamela was a beautiful person in every way,” Richard Rock said.
Pamela Rock was a mail carrier with the United States Postal Service, a continuation of a life devoted to service, including volunteering with the Peace Corps in Guatemala, educating indigenous women and children on nutrition on a reservation, and working for years with the federal Women, Infants and Children nutrition program — even testifying on Capitol Hill.
But on a dirt road in the Interlachen Lake Estates area on Aug. 21, she was the target of a pack of dogs that had escaped their yard.
“Just make it quick, hurry,” a 911 caller said. “Dog attack.”
According to the 911 call, the dogs attacked her for at least 5 minutes.
“There’s one, two, three, four of them, hurry,” the caller said.
Pamela Rock was airlifted to a trauma center, where her brother Tom Rock rushed to her side.
“She had lost one arm and part of another leg,” he said. “Her face was mauled. Her face was mauled, ear was torn up, all of the horrible things that would happen if you were attacked by wild animals.”
Pamela Rock died the next day.
Her siblings are determined to get accountability.
“How dare someone just blow this off and say, this isn’t important, this wasn’t really preventable? And it was, and it is, but nobody’s doing anything about it in Putnam County,” Tom Rock said.
The State Attorney’s Office declined to charge the dogs’ owner with recklessness. Its investigation revealed the owner had tried to patch his fence and had tried to surrender the dogs to Animal Control — twice.
He spoke to the I-TEAM but wanted his identity concealed.
“It’s been heartbreaking,” he said. “I think about it every day, and I hurt every day because it shouldn’t have happened.”
He said he tried to surrender the five dogs — among them Rambo, Bam Bam, Lily and Trickster — because he could not afford to feed them.
“Trying to get help, you know, somebody that would care for them,” he said.
He said three of the dogs were strays he took in and then one had puppies.
“I’m a dog lover,” he said.
The State Attorney’s Office investigation found he first called Animal Control to surrender the dogs in February 2022 — six months before the fatal attack — but no one called back “due to a lack of resources,” an animal control officer told the investigator.
Eleven days later, the dogs got out and attacked neighbor Howard Clough, putting him in the hospital.
“I was laying out there in the road. I had all the dogs biting me here, biting me here, biting me down my damn leg and chewing me all up,” said Clough, who survived the dog attack but told the I-TEAM that he received more than 200 stitches all over his body.
The Putnam County Sheriff’s Office responded, with the deputy writing they would forward their report to Animal Control. But Animal Control Officer Donald Ferguson later told the State Attorney’s Office that they never received the report. He said the report would have come to him directly, telling investigators following Pamela Rock’s death: “I wasn’t on vacation. I wasn’t sick that week. So this would have come across my desk, and I would have taken care of it personally.”
A spokesperson with the Sheriff’s Office said they send reports by fax, telling the I-TEAM, “We don’t keep a record of faxes. The report said it would be forwarded so we stand by the report as true and accurate and that it was sent.”
If Animal Control had responded after Clough was attacked, it could have designated the animals as “dangerous dogs” under Putnam County law — which could result in the dogs being euthanized or registered.
“My sister might still be with us,” Richard Rock said.
The dogs were euthanized after the attack on Pamela Rock.
“I’m very sorry it happened,” their owner said.
Had the dogs been classified as dangerous, their owner could have faced a felony for the attack on Rock.
“And now we have people hurt, and there’s no accountability,” Tom Rock said.
Ten days before the fatal attack, Animal Control received a report of the dogs attacking a car and left a note on their owners’ fence. He called them back and asked again about surrendering the dogs.
“He wanted us to come get the dogs, but due to our policy, we don’t take owner surrenders unless of dire needs,” Ferguson told investigators. “And this is not a dire need situation because he just couldn’t afford them or whatever the need may be. We’re not going to take custody of somebody’s dogs just because.”
Animal Control has been a point of contention in the county for years. It is housed in a cramped facility at the county landfill. The State Attorney’s Office investigated the facility in 2016 and found it was understaffed and underfunded but did not find criminal wrongdoing.
The 2021 county budget shows $750,000 allocated to build a new Animal Control by the Sheriff’s Office, although construction has not begun.
The budget also said that since Animal Control moved out of the umbrella of the Sheriff’s Office in 2014 to the Putnam County Planning and Development Services Department, it has issued zero citations, even though it has the authority to under the law.
“Out of sight, out of mind, total neglect...I thought they worked for the sheriff. It would make sense. and that would solidify the connectivity and meetings and all that stuff,” said Tom Rock.
Local animal activist Mike Merrill said the Sheriff’s Office and Animal Control still follow up on animal cases in the county, and he does not think Animal Control is at fault in this case, noting shelters are at capacity across the region. He suggests enforcing mandatory spay and neuter laws would help.
“I think it’s a very tragic situation. But I think it’s a big mistake to try to blame the county. It’s a mistake to blame Animal Control and the sheriff,” Merrill said. “They can’t be everywhere. They can’t be responsible for everybody’s individual dogs.”
Clough has other ideas.
“I’d like to see they all go to jail,” Clough said. When asked to whom he was referring, Clough answered, “Putnam County.”
The Rock family thinks more should be done, too.
“Currently, we have a huge gap in the protection of citizens because of bureaucratic delays or inaction,” said Richard Rock.
Pamela Rock’s family is proposing an investigation to determine who or what agencies should be held accountable and what changes should be made to make sure something like this never happens again.
Putnam County officials have not responded to News4JAX’s requests for comment.