Friday, February 6, 2009

Florida Bill Aimed at Banning Certain Dog Breeds by Ordinance

FL bill for changes to s 767.14, F.S

Thanks to Kerri McCoy, one of our fabulous clients, here is a break down on the Florida Bill for changes proposed to the s767.14, F. S (Banning of Certain Dog Breeds by Ordinance).

In the link below, there is a really informative document published by the Florida Senate. It is entitled Review of the viability of city or county pre-emption of banning certain dog breeds by ordinance.

Currently, the state of FL has a danger dog law that was enacted in 1990. The law outlines three main subjects: 1) The definition of a dangerous dog, 2) the process of filing a formal complaint to initiate an investigation of a possible dangerous dog, 3) The enforcement process of the dangerous dog law and penalities for an owner of a dog deemed dangerous by local authorities.

Under the current legislation, local governments have authorization to place further restrictions and additional requirements on owners who have a dog that is considered dangerous. No local governments may make any breed-specific regulations or lessen the penalties of the state law. There are a handful of local communities that already had breed-specific legislation and were grandfathered in, to keep that legislation intact when this law was enacted in 1990.

In 2001, Senator Sebesta attempted to eliminate the breed-specific laws grandfathered in for those localities, but the bill did not make it to session. In 2008, Representative Thurston filed a bill (HB 101) with the intent of giving cities and counties the right to ban breeds. The bill was never scheduled for a hearing and it never made it past the House Committee on Agribusiness.

This committee sent out surveys to all of Florida's 67 counties and 410 municipalities to try to obtain data on dog bites by breed, as well as a breed census. Out of these 477 surveys, ONLY 10 responses were returned, which is a 2% response rate. The committee even publishes in this document that "With a lack of information in both the total number of dogs by breed and the total number of dog bites by breed, little evidence either supporting or opposing breed specific legislation can be inferred". Yet, there is a recommendation by the professional staff of the Senate Community Affairs Committee to narrow the pre-emption language in the dangerous dog law, which would give local governments the right to enact breed specific regulations such as registering, muzzling and neutering. The proposed pre-emption would also give local governments the authority to impose breed specific regulations.

The committee also enlisted input from the Florida League of Cities, Florida Association of Counties, The American Kennel Club, the Florida Animal Control Association, and Leon County Animal Control. Florida League of Cities and the Florida Association of Counties are favorable to further local government authority, but neither took an official stance on the issue. The American Kennel Club, Florida Animal Control Association and Leon County Animal Control are favorable to stricter enforcement and harsher penalties under the the current dangerous dog law.

I hope this helps!

People need to write their legislators against removing the pre-emption language - until that gets removed counties cannot enact any type of breed bans.

For more information on this bill, click here.

So what are your thoughts on this bill? Do you think certain breeds should be banned? Will a bill like this even help the situation? What else can be done? Let us know in the comments section!

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