Ban on dangerous dogs OK'd by county

Published: Wednesday, January 25, 2006 at 6:01 a.m.
Last Modified: Tuesday, January 24, 2006 at 11:37 p.m.
Horrific stories of people mauled and pets killed by attacking dogs punctuated passage Tuesday night of new a ordinance requiring the euthanasia of dangerous dogs in Alachua County.
County commissioners saw photos ranging from the bloody wounds of injured people to the face of a blue-eyed cat named Lucy killed by marauding dogs.
"We all invest a lot of emotions in our pets. It becomes, somewhat, like having children," said David Hill, Lucy's owner. "When she died, it was a blow."
Originally proposed was an ordinance that would give owners the option of finding a home in another county for dogs that are declared dangerous.
However, Commissioner Mike Byerly said that could foist a dangerous dog on another county and asked that that option be removed. The ordinance requiring euthanasia was approved unanimously and is effective in the entire county, including Gainesville and other cities.
The dangerous dog ban will start Feb. 1. Dogs that are now declared dangerous will be grandfathered in, but subsequent violations will trigger the ban.
"Our intent is public safety," said Animal Services Director Ray Sim. "If animals reach this level of aggression, we want to investigate it and and then remove those animals from Alachua County."
Two of the 12 speakers from the audience expressed concerns over the ordinance. Toni Fair, owner of a dangerous dog named Elvis, said that with the assistance of Animal Services she has learned how to properly confine the dog and that no further trouble has occurred.
Another speaker said the ordinance will punish dogs instead of owners, adding that an alternative should be found.
But others expressed strong support for the ordinance.
Sim showed on a projector several photos of county residents who had been wounded in dog attacks. One showed the bloodied face and head of a youngster in which, Sim said, the dog could have ripped the ear off.
"These are dramatic, but they go to what we have to deal with," Sim said of the pictures.
The county uses state laws to define a dangerous dog based on four criteria, any one of which can trigger the designation:
- A dog that has more than once severely injured or killed a domestic animal while off its owner's property. - A dog used for dog fighting or trained for fighting. - A dog that has, when unprovoked, chased or approached a person on any public grounds in a menacing fashion or apparent attitude of attack.
Incidents are reviewed by Animal Services investigators, who can then declare the dog dangerous. The owner has several avenues of appeal. Currently, dangerous dogs must be sterilized, kept enclosed at home and be registered annually. Warning signs must be posted at the home. Sim said those measures have not done enough to prevent repeat problems, so the ban is proposed. Alachua County has 23 dangerous dogs living at 17 different locations. In the past 90 days seven people have been cited for violations of the requirements imposed on the dogs. The new ordinance does not target a specific breed. Florida law prohibits breed-specific bans, but Miami-Dade County has breed-specific ordinances that were grandfathered in when state laws were approved.
Commissioners also approved an ordinance enabling veterinarians to issue pet licenses when a cat or dog is vaccinated for rabies.
Currently the licenses must be obtained from Animal Services.
Also passed was an ordinance allowing rescue groups to get cats and dogs from the Animal Services shelter for free rather than pay adoption fees.
Cindy Swirko can be reached at 374-5024 or Cindy.swirko@

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