Florida town struggles with problem of dangerous dogs

A series of dog attacks and escapes in Melbourne Beach reportedly has citizens concerned, and was the recent subject of a special meeting. Now, authorities are looking for new methods to crash down on owners whose dogs bite, chase or menace adults, children and pets.

The town is facing a bit of a dilemma, because Florida law and county ordinances in the area govern management of troublesome animals, not the town. Lawmakers in Florida have prohibited breed-specific local ordinances since 1990. And if a dog attacks somebody’s pet, state law requires a second documented attack on a domestic animal before that dog may be formally declared “dangerous.” This is called the “one free bite” rule.

Residents in Melbourne Beach aren’t happy with the situation. Already, a handful of recent attacks have been reported, one involving a family cat, another a family dog, and another involving a police officer. In another incident, two dogs were captured after trapping a woman inside her car.

Among the ideas now under consideration by Melbourne Beach authorities are to document neighborhood complaints of threatening dog behavior, forcing owners who fail to resolve the issue to purchase $300,000 in liability insurance. Others ideas are to create a dog registration system that imposes increasing fees on owners of poorly behaved animals, set up a town ordinance that imposes civil fines on owners of dogs that attack others, and require dog owners muzzle their animals outdoors and increase fines for owners of unleashed dogs.

Dog attacks can result in serious injuries, and those who fall victims need to know their rights when it comes time to hold owners of dangerous dogs accountable.

Source: Florida Today, “Dog Violence, aggressive behavior ignites outrage in Brevard,” Rick Neale, February 6, 2013