Dogs escape fenced yard, maul, dismember Jacksonville man

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A Jacksonville man was mauled by four dogs while witnesses said he was taking his trash out to a dumpster.

The dogs somehow got through a hole in the fence around a home on Friday afternoon, witnesses told FOX 30 in Jacksonville, and attacked 83-year-old Michael Downing, who was taking garbage out to a dumpster near the home.

Witnesses said the dogs dragged Downing back into the yard to continue attacking him. "By far it's probably the worst thing I've ever seen in my life," Mackenzie Partin said. "There was only 30 percent left of his body probably."

Partin told FOX 30 that Downing had been dismembered and was barely recognizable after the attack.

The dogs have since been removed from the home while the Jacksonville Sheriff's Office investigates.

The dogs' owner, Lephus Felton, says he believes his dogs were provoked. "My dogs ain't no vicious dogs. They're vicious to protect this yard," Felton told FOX 30.

Witnesses told investigators that wasn't the case and say Downing was a helpful neighbor and a happy man. "He always had a big smile on his face," neighbor Mark Jones told FOX 30.

Neighbors say they believed it was only a matter of time before the dogs attacked. "I knew it was coming, I knew someone was going to die," said Jones.

FOX 30 reports that Downing worked at the Tax Collector's Office for 30 years and retired in his late 70s. He had a stroke recently, but was otherwise active, sharp, well-educated and well-traveled, said his power of attorney.

His family plans to have his remains cremated and scattered in the ocean.