“Pit Bull” or Not “Pit Bull” that is the Question, Commissioners Discuss How to Reduce Vicious Dog Attacks
BROOKSVILLE – On the heels of recent vicious dog attacks that killed and maimed several pets around Hernando County, the Board of County Commissioners met Tuesday to try and find a solution to the problem.
Earlier this month, RNRF interviewed Georgina and Ramon Gutierrez who lost their small dog to a horrific attack by two “Pit Bulls,” after they broke free from a residence on Halsey Road. (CLICK HERE FOR FULL STORY) Just three days prior to the Gutierrez’ terrifying incident, a small horse was nearly mauled to death by a pack of Pit Bulls that had previously attacked the family and terrorized the neighborhood on several prior occasions. (CLICK HERE FOR FULL STORY)
The term “Pit Bull” always raises heated debate between Pit Bull enthusiasts and those who believe the “breed” should be banned, and the discussions are nearly as vicious as the dogs that attack. But is Pit Bull even a real word? Is it a breed? Not according to some Hernando County Officials.
The Hernando County Animal Shelter is at maximum capacity with what some refer to as Pit Bulls, but Shelter Manager James Terry says they refer to them as Terriers or Terrier mix. During a tour of the facility last week, Terry says the largest percentage of intake strays are Terriers but that he doesn’t think they are any more dangerous than other breed.
During Tuesday’s BOCC meeting, Chairman Steve Champion opened discussion with fellow board members over what can be done to reduce the number of attacks and penalize irresponsible owners.
After a heart wrenching presentation by Ramon Gutierrez, Commissioner John Allocco said, “I don’t think that anyone is in disagreement that irresponsible dog owners are the problem here. We need to start leaning on our legislators a little bit if we are being restricted by State Law.” Allocco shared his condolences with Roman and his wife over the loss of their dog.
Commissioner Nick Nicholson said, “I believe enforcement is a problem, but I’d be highly in favor of doing whatever else we can do to help our citizens animals be safe. We don’t need any breed running around killing other dogs or biting people.”
Champion believe there should be stiffer penalties for home owners, even for those who rent to tenants with aggressive dogs. But Champion made it clear that he isn’t picking on “Pit Bulls” when he stated, “it’s a free country, no one is going to tell somebody they can’t have a certain breed. . . But if you have that large dog and it hurts somebody, you’re responsible.”
Commissioner Wayne Dukes agreed, stating, “I think the attorney should look at it and put it on the backs of the property owners as well. If there is any physical damage to an animal or a person it needs to be more than 100 dollars. I think we need to be stricter on people, especially if it is a repeat situation.”
A typical fine for owners who allow their dogs to break free and harm an animal or person is $100. Champions suggests a much higher fine, in the range of $1,000. But how does the County ensure that violators will pay the fine and how does that prevent another attack?
Commissioners plan to invite the representative with the Sheriff’s Office, Fire Rescue and Animal Services to discuss how to improve enforcement efforts and the possibly of new regulations.
Miami-Dade County has strict regulations on what they openly refer to as “Pit Bulls” and municide 5-17.2 reads, Because of the pit bull dog’s inbred propensity to attack other animals, and because of the danger posed to humans and animals alike by a pit bull dog when running loose or while naming together in a pack, pit bull dogs must at all times be securely confined indoors, or confined in a securely and totally enclosed and locked pen, with either a top or with all four (4) sides at least six (6) feet high, and with a conspicuous sign displaying the words “Dangerous Dog.”
Residents who choose to own Pit Bulls are required to provide evidence that they are financially able to pay damages and obtain liability insurance in the amount of $50,000.
The discussion is expected to continue on February 6th at the Brooksville Courthouse.
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