Dangerous Dog Law Cases from Broward County, Florida

Hoesch Oral Argument Creates Cautious Optimism

Wandner Gives Passionate Argument 
In Hoesch v. Broward County

mercedes

Do the Judge's Questions Signal the End of Broward's Ordinance?

Jason Wandner gave a passionate and wonderfully crafted argument to the 4th DCA today. From start to finish, he was animated, interesting and prepared.  He even cited to the panel Zeus's case in which Judge Dischowitz criticized the poor drafting of the ordinance. The judges listened carefully to his argument that Broward County did not have the right to supercede the state two kill rule with its one kill definition. 

The appellate judges, Carole Taylor, Jonathan Gerber, and Robin Rosenberg listened carefully to both sides.  This panel clearly understood the issues, and reserved most of their questions for the Broward County Attorney. 

The Broward County Attorney started out by saying that issues like the one before the court brought out a lot of passion on both sides.  He was clearly trying to equalize the energy Wandner had exhibited in his presentation. In reality, the County Attorney was unable to deliver. Whether it was his laid back delivery or the technicality of his argument, there was little intensity in his argument.

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Broward Ordered to Set Zeus Free

Broward Loses On Appeal—Ordered to Set "Zeus" Free

Zeus, on Broward's Dog Death Row, was set free August 31, 2010 by Judge Martin Dishowitz.  The Order Setting Zeus free can be read in its entirety here.  A must read.  Zeus was represented pro bono by Scott Schirrman. The Hearing Officer found Zeus dangerous for biting an exterminator while he was spraying the owner's back yard.  Schirrman filed a Writ of Certiorari, a type of appeal that challenges whether the record supports the findings by the hearing officer.

There was an issue of provocation.  The exterminator, entering the backyard unannounced was met by a dog who jumped up at the mask around the exterminator's neck.  The exterminator pushed the dog away and was bitten in the process.  The court did not decide the case on whether the exterminator provoked the dog by pushing.  Instead, it concentrated on that part of the Broward Ordinance which states that no dog will be found dangerous if a person is injured while committing a trespass.  Since the exterminator did not ask for the owner's permission to go in the backyard, he was not lawfully there, and was a trespasser.  Zeus was therefore absolved, and the Court ordered him off of death row and back to his owners.

The case is significant in several respects.  First, the footnotes of the opinion point out the sloppy, contradictory, and hearsay nature of the County's introduced documentary evidence (which is pretty much standard).  Second, the court expresses its dismay at the way the Ordinance was written, and the perilous outcome for dogs who have never been in trouble before.  Lastly, it points out the faulty reasoning of the Hearing Officer. 

A great result and opinion in the face of daunting odds.

Mercedes on Broward Death Row the Longest

Mercedes on Broward Death Row the Longest

mercedes

Mercedes has been on Broward's death row the longest. She was originally taken into custody by Broward Animal Control on November 24, 2008.  Almost two years ago. The crime? Allegedly killing a cat. No previous history of aggression, no prior history of problems with animal control. And she will remain on death row for the foreseeable future.  The case is now on appeal to the Fourth District, and they have yet to schedule oral argument. 

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Gigi's Story

Gigi's Story

gigi

So what did Gigi do to end up on Broward's Dog death row? According to Gigi's facebook page, yorkie, she just grabben her by the neck and because the yorkie was only 3 lbs the bite ended up being fatal. Gigi is not an aggressive dog, she is a gentle dog, who lives with her family and even a cat, whom she sleeps with.

Gigi was classified dangerous by the hearing officer, and that case is currently on appeal.  A Writ of Replevin was filed and denied. The Order denying the Writ is also on appeal.  To be continued.

Hoesch v. Broward County

Hoesch v. Broward County, Florida

binoc
Fourth District Court of Appeal

 Jason Wandner for "Mercedes"

Pending in the Fourth District Court of Appeal (Broward County) is a case involving a pit bull who got out and killed a cat.

Broward County has a one kill dangerous dog definition—but with one difference.  The dog is euthanized once it is declared dangerous.

The Hoesch case argues that F.S. 828.27 is the enabling statute for the power of Animal Control. F.S. 828.27 expressly states that "no county or municipal ordinance relating to animal control shall conflict with the provisions of this chapter or any other state law."

The state law referred to (bolded above) would include any municipal ordinance that redefines a dangerous dog as one having killed once.

The case has been briefed and is ready for oral argument.  There are several other dogs on "death row" who appear likely to appeal under the same theories.

Of course this case is very important for those in Marion County, Florida which has also decided to enact an ordinance with a one kill rule.

I will report on developments as they become available.

 

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