Dangerous Dog Cases from Marion County, Florida

McBee

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McBee v. Marion County Animal Control

The McBee case started a firestorm of criticism about the Marion County, Florida Ordinance. It culminated in change of the Ordinance in February 2010.  Unfortunately, as reported here, the changes got watered down in the political process.

The three McBee dogs got loose on September 20, 2009 and allegedly killed a cat. The dogs were collies, and one was a service dog.  The cat was an outside cat, and the facts were murky about whether the dogs killed the cat or the cat had already been mortally wounded prior to the attack.

The dogs were declared dangerous before the Code Enforcement Board on October 14, 2009.  Newspaper coverage of the aftermath of the hearing is here.

There was discussion about the one-kill rule and whether it was fair.  An editorial in the Star Banner questioning the Marion County Ordinance is here

Under state law, the McBee dogs would not have been declared dangerous, since state law requires two kills of a domestic animal before they can be considered dangerous.  Harmonizing the ordinance with state law was one of the issues the McBee case brought to the public's attention.

Pending the appeal, the dogs were allowed to go to her veterinarian's office, as reported here.

Based on the McBee case, changing the one kill rule in the ordinance and other measures designed to make the ordinance more dog friendly were discussed at a public hearing reported here. Creating a Dog Classification Board with members that had experience with dog behavior were discussed.

After a workshop and public hearing, the County Commissioners decided not to make the dangerous dog definition consistent with state law, as reported here. A dangerous dog classification board was created, but it contained the same members of the code Enforcement Board.  I can tell you after being in front of both, nothing has changed.

Everyone who hoped that the McBee case would result in major change was disappointed, as reported here.

One change in the new law that is significant, is that on appeal from the Dangerous Dog Classification Board, the dog owner gets a de novo hearing in front of a judge in county court with rules of evidence.  So the McBee case did produce a positive change that was worth the effort. 

Triana—Jerry the Dangerous Dog

Marion County v. Triana

Jerry—The "Dangerous" Dog

"Dangerous" dog Jerry

Jerry was picked up by Marion Animal Control based on a complaint made by neighbor that he was playing too roughly with her dog.  When Animal Control arrived and examined the dog that had been roughly played with, there was no evidence of any bite marks, blood or broken skin. Jerry had been run off by the neighbor by throwing things at him. Animal control had been told that he had attacked several neighbors, despite the fact that such persons were never named, identified or found. The complainant was unable to give the name of the neighbor who was allegedly attacked. Upon arrival, the Animal Control Officer stated to the complaintant: "Maybe she [Mrs. Triana] can catch her dog and we wouldn't have to dart the dog."

The dog was eventually darted.  The Animal Control officer described to the Code Enforcement Board that Jerry, about one year old and a little over a foot tall, pictured above:

(H)it the side of my truck, extremely aggressive, started jumping up into the window, and I rolled the window almost all the way to the top."  He described the dog as a Rottweiler.

The full transcript of the Code Enforcement Board Hearing, for those interested, can be viewed here.  There are no rules of evidence, hearsay is allowed, and documents are introduced without authentication. The setting is quite hostile and intimidating.

I was not at the hearing. Mrs. Triana represented herself (and did an admirable job in a very hostile situation). But the take away from reading the transcript of the hearing, is that you have got to see the actual dog before you go in front of the fact finder.  From reading the transcript, Jerry was "Cujo."  The animal control officer was very persuasive and credible. When Jerry was finally released after appeal and I visited him at home I was shocked.  The dog is less than a foot tall and doesn't look anything like a Rottweiler. But the animal control officer had persuaded the Board he was dangerous.

One of Board members stated that all that was needed was for Jerry to scare someone to be found dangerous:

"If in her mind...your dog is acting aggressively toward her, then that meets the criteria of the ordinance."

Jerry was declared dangerous by the Board and we appealed. 

The ruling was reversed, but more on that later.

The question is, should a dog be declared dangerous for scaring someone?

ULU goes home pending appeal

ULU goes home!

Ulu
On Friday, April 30, 2010, one day before the hearing on the Writ of Replevin (return our dog) scheduled before Judge Futch on May 3, 2010, the County agreed to return ULU pending appeal.

For those of you who have not been following this case, ULU was impounded by Marion Animal Control on March 30, 2010, based on allegations that he had killed a cat. As a result of the impoundment, we immediately filed a lawsuit containing a Writ of Replevin while also asking for injunctive and declaratory relief. The actual lawsuit in all its incomprehensible legal jargon can be viewed here

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Dangerous Dog Law

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