FT. LAUDERDALE (CBS4) – Broward commissioners decided Tuesday that the county’s zero tolerance law for dangerous dogs should be tempered with a little mercy.
Commissioners voted to amend the current law to allow dogs in the county a two bite policy before mandatory euthanization.
Proposed by Commissioner Chip LaMarca the modified law requires that dogs who kill would be given a second chance it their owners agree to abide by a number of conditions including keeping them muzzled and leashed at all times off their property and having the dog implanted with a microchip. Owners could be fined up to $500 for each violation.
There is an exception in the modified law; dogs that hurt kids would be subject to euthanasia on their first offense.
The new law would be very similar to the one they had up until 2008 when they cracked down on so-called dangerous dogs.
Last month the city settled with two owners who sued after their pooches were sentenced to doggie death row.
“They didn’t apply the law the right way. It wasn’t a case by case basis. That’s why it needed to be changed,” said Lon Lipsky.
Lipsky was walking his husky Brandie on a leash last May when she bit an unleashed teacup poodle and killed the dog. Under the county’s one bite law, Brandie was ordered to be put down.
But Lipsky and his family fought back. They moved Brandie to a vet office which cost them $7,000 for 6 months and filed a lawsuit against the county.
“There needs to be accountability on the owner’s part that has the dangerous dog but there must also be accountability where you put a dog in a situation where it feels provoked and in this case I think the commission got it right,” said Lipsky.
Weston resident Tom Austin also sued the county for the return of his dog, Gigi, a Labrador, who was on a leash when she bit a leashed Yorkie in her family’s neighborhood.
Austin also sued the county, saying the law was unconstitutional. He said Gigi simply reacted by biting the Yorkie. Austin said she’s never bitten anyone before — animal or human. He believes the county law did not adequately protect animals who are provoked.
“That doesn’t mean they’re a dangerous dog,” he said. “They do it twice there’s probably a reason to believe they’re a dangerous dog.”
County Commissioners LaMarca and John Rodstrom support the change in the law.
“You’re considered to be guilty until your day in court,” Rodstrom said. “There are ways to protect the public without putting the dog to sleep.”
In the last two years, since the tougher law was in place, 56 dogs have been put down by the county for violating the law, most were pit bulls or Rottweilers.
The Sun-Sentinel also contributed to this report.