- Created on 15 June 2010
- Last Updated on 26 May 2014
- Written by Fred M. Kray
- Hits: 2111
With the right set of facts, a Dangerous Dog case can generate a lot of media interest. There are a lot of dog lovers out there. In Marion County, the McBee case was the impetus for the County Commissioners to revisit the Dangerous Dog issue. Unfortunately, it resulted in only one major change, the de novo hearing in County Court. This change is a big one, though, and therefore justified the effort.
With the internet, social networking sites, and organized events, it is possible to not only generate media interest, but to keep it going. The current Broward County protest is a good example of how to generate grassroots interest in a dangerous dog case. While it remains to be seen whether there will be any change to the Broward Ordinance, there has already been one casualty; Tom Keller, the county's top animal control investigator has retired.
The owners of Brandie and Gigi each created facebook pages to save their dogs. They also created an online petition which generated thousands of signatures. They organized and publicized a protest in the Lobby of the Broward County Courthouse.
All these actions generated some very positive newspaper reports and television pieces. In turn, this coverage brought the issue to the attention of a great number of people who never knew anything about the Dangerous Dog Ordinance or how it could affect their companion animal. For the most part, these Ordinances live a silent existence, known only to those who get their dogs impounded. A very small number of people. Getting the word out on how draconian the ordinance is, represents a very big first step in getting political change. The fact that the Broward Animal Advisory Committee agreed to hear public comment must be considered a direct effect of the negative publicity generated by these two cases.
While social networking is a great tool, it can also generate evidence that can be used in court. There have been several Facebook defamation suits filed. Think before you post. If you are the owner of a dog in a pending dangerous dog hearing, shooting case, or other tort matter, statements you make on social networking sites can be used at trial either as impeachment or an admission. And if you make statements that fall into the category of defamation, you can be sued for damages.
My advice is that if you are going to use social networking, don't adminstrate the page or site yourself. If you are represented by counsel, get his or her opinion on what you intend to do and whether it is appropriate for the case. I would recommend that the party involved not post at all. If you do post, it would be only to relay factual material. In any event, it should not be done without forethought and attorney advice.