County working on putting more bite into ordinances for aggressive animals

By Don Coble don@opcfla.com
Posted 6/2/21

CLAY COUNTY – Officials want to remove the legal muzzles which prohibit them from issuing penalties following animal attacks.

The county’s animal control office has started working with Clay …

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County working on putting more bite into ordinances for aggressive animals

Posted

CLAY COUNTY – Officials want to remove the legal muzzles which prohibit them from issuing penalties following animal attacks.

The county’s animal control office has started working with Clay County Commissioners to expand a state policy that expands the definition of dog attacks to protect families, pets and livestock from vicious attacks.

Currently, Florida’s Chapter 767 defines attacking dogs as dangerous that as aggressively bitten, attacked or endangered or has inflicted severe injury to a person on private property, or one that has severely injured or killed a domestic animal on private property or has, when unprovoked, chased or approached a person on a street, sidewalk or public ground menacingly ahead of an apparent attack.

To be considered a “dangerous” dog, the state said there must be evidence the dog was involved in at least two separate attacks of another animal or one severe attack against a human.

For a dog owner like Frank Byman, that did make sense after his 13-week-old beagle puppy was viciously attacked by a Dogo Argentine while he was walking his leashed dogs on Fleming Island.

His dog, Arlo, sustained $15,000 worth of veterinary bills and went through five emergency life-saving procedures and surgeries to survive.

Owners of the Dogo Argentine, which are outlawed in eight countries and the United Kingdom, weren’t cited because the animal is only responsible for one attack.

Clay County Commissioners Wayne Bolla and Mike Cella want to change all that.

The BCC held a workshop a month ago to discuss animal control. They heard from residents, including Byman, about vicious attacks that go unpunished. The board agreed to review its policies and asked staff and the legal department to “tighten” up its current ordinances, BCC Chairman Mike Cella said.

“We thought by adapting state statute we’d be in pretty good shape,” he said. “We essentially mirrored that statute. After hearing testimony and hearing recommendations from the staff, we made a determination we need to tighten those up. We asked the staff to come back with an ordinance, which instead of giving a dog owner two opportunities to attack another dog or a person, we trimmed that down to one. So after the first incident, it will be followed by things they will have to abide by. We’re not quite there yet, but we’re working on it.”

According to county records, there were 1,865 reported animal bites in Clay County in the first four months of this year. Of those, 1,535 were by dogs. The county doesn’t track the number of dogs who were put down following multiple attacks.”

The county is considering adding a new category following an attack that defines an animal as “aggressive” after one attack. Currently, animals are deemed to be “dangerous” after two attacks.

“A dog can attack somebody pretty viciously one time and nothing happens,” Cella said. “After that, we know the dog should be watched. The second time is what it takes to be called a dangerous animal. I don’t know what the answer is, but I think we need to do something about it. There needs to be some liability in there, somehow.”

Both commissioners said the legal department is working on plans to make dog owners more legally responsible for their animals.

“We already have ordinances you’re not supposed to let your animal run loose. Legal has to make a determination what we can do, what we can’t do based under statutes. We hope to have that in the next month or so. I think the board, unanimously, was interested in tightening those things up, especially as we grow bigger, we’re going to have more animals in the county.”

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