Dogs that attack people or other pets could very soon face the same fate as human sex offenders: Their names and photos could be posted on a Miami-Dade County online registry for everyone to see.
Whether a yippy Chihuahua biting a mail carrier or a regal Great Dane taking a chunk out of a neighbor, whether on the pet owner’s property or at a park, the penalty would be the same: a $1,000 fine — and inclusion in the online animal hall of shame.
The proposed law is one of two up for consideration at Tuesday’s County Commission meeting that would tighten local animal regulations and expand on the county’s “dangerous dog” ordinance.
Commissioner Sally Heyman has proposed a bill that would require owners of dogs designated as “dangerous” to carry $50,000 worth of insurance, and allow law enforcement to confiscate dogs, an act that now falls to Animal Services workers.
Commissioner Jose “Pepe” Diaz’s measure would go much further, requiring an online mug shot and biography of any dog deemed dangerous, and fines of $1,000 — double the current sanction — for anyone who trains their dogs to fight, or whose animals injure or kill other animals. The same fine would be enforced if a dog attacks, bites or chases a human in a “menacing fashion.”
If you abuse an animal, it will cost you $1,000. The dangerous-dog registry on the county’s Animal Services website would also include the circumstances of any attack and the owner’s address.
Diaz said the point of his ordinance, which would increase fines for repeat offenders to $2,000 or higher if further offenses occur, is to keep the public safe and informed, and to get pet owners to train their dogs responsibly.
“People abuse animals. Sometimes people acquire animals and don’t know if they’re vicious,” said Diaz, pointing out that it is the responsibility of the owner to train a dog properly or keep it away from others.
The county already has a dangerous-dog ordinance on the books. The new measure would beef it up by expanding the type of acts considered cruel to animals, creating new regulations for aggressive dogs, and placing new restrictions on irresponsible owners, Diaz said.
Under county law, a dog can be declared dangerous if it attacks another animal or a human without provocation and causes severe injury or death, or if it approaches a human in a menacing fashion or apparent attitude of attack.
After a report is made, an Animal Services officer is required to visit an attack site while the dog is quarantined. Even if the victim chooses not to pursue a complaint, the investigator can initiate a case. A dog owner can appeal a “dangerous” designation to a county hearing officer, then to Circuit Court.
Current law also states that if a dog is declared dangerous, it must be sterilized, microchipped and confined if kept outdoors. Diaz’s bill would expand the term “confinement,” requiring a dangerous animal to be kept in a pen or structure that children cannot enter, like a four-sided cage with a secured top. If an animal is kept in the house, there must be clearly visible “dangerous dog” signs at each entrance to the home.
If a dog is a repeat offender, a judge could even decide to put it to death.