After years of disputes involving allegations of dog bites, animal cruelty and other citations, Brevard County judge Benjamin Garagozlo approved the settlement of a Brevard County case against a Cocoa couple.
He issued a temporary injunction barring the couple from living in a home where dogs are present for at least three years. After that, the couple could gradually earn back the privilege of dog ownership.
According to an article in Florida Today, the case is the first of its kind in Brevard County. Cases involving dog bites and other animal violations are usually handled through local ordinances that place restrictions on pet ownership. This is the first where someone has been barred from owning pets at all.
A History of Dog Bites and Legal Violations
Assistant Brevard County Attorney Morris Richardson and animal services officials had brought a lawsuit against Billy and Julie Robinson after a series accusations that their four pit bulls had attacked neighbors and other neighborhood animals going back to 2007. Animal services accused the couple of trying to get around laws regulating their dogs and said the Robinsons had long ignored citations and fines.
Three of the Robinsons’ adult dogs, as well as nine puppies born recently, have been kept impounded in county-run shelters since April. A judge had ordered all of the Robinsons’ dogs to be impounded, but one of the four suffered from mange and had to be euthanized.
The Robinsons’ defense attorney, Todd Deratany, told Florida Today that his clients accepted the settlement without either accepting or denying any guilt. He said the Robinsons “do not believe their dogs were a threat.” He also said the remaining dogs would be put up for adoption.
“It’s a fair resolution . . . that I think will be satisfactory to the residents of the neighborhood as well as my clients,” Deratany said in the interview.
Rehabilitating Negligent Dog Owners
The terms of the settlement reduce the amount of money Brevard County had been seeking from the Robinsons by half, and bars the couple from owning dogs at all for 36 months. After that, the couple could petition for the right to own one dog if they meet the following conditions:
- Pay Brevard County more than $2,500 in outstanding fines and boarding costs for their impounded animals
- Reimburse neighbors for $620 in veterinarian bills from dog bites on their animals by the Robinsons’ dogs
- Complete an American Humane Society class approved by the county
Once they are allowed to own the single dog, they will have to demonstrate two years of “good dog ownership,” which would include receiving no citations for pet ownership violations (presumably including further incidents of dog bites) and no convictions for cruelty to animals. If they do so, they could ask a judge to lift the ban completely.
“Cocoa couple banned from owning dogs for 36 months” (Florida Today, June 3, 2010)