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The post below was published on Friday, February 11th, 2011 at 8:00 AM.

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Fourth District: Local Dangerous Dog Ordinance Invalid

Broward County has an ordinance providing that if a dog off its owner’s property kills a domestic animal, then the dog is a dangerous dog and shall be euthanized. An owner whose dog escaped and killed a neighbor’s cat challenged the ordinance as invalid because it conflicts with state law.

The Fourth District agreed. The district court’s decision pointed out that under state law, a dog is classified as a “dangerous dog” if it has more than once severely injured or killed a domestic animal while off the owner’s property, and a dog previously declared dangerous is to be euthanized if it attacks a domestic animal without provocation. The court put those concepts together and concluded that, under state law, “a dog would have to kill at least three domestic animals before section 767.13(1) would require its destruction.” The court then held Broward County’s ordinance invalid as being in conflict with the state’s statutes.

One might note that, under the statutory scheme, and contrary to the district court’s observation, a dog could be destroyed if it twice severely injures a domestic animal, is declared dangerous, and then attacks a domestic animal. Killing three domestic animals does not appear necessary. Whether the court’s contrary statement is corrected or left in place would not seem to alter the court’s conclusion that the ordinance and state law conflict.

The good news for the appellant and his dog is that the dog, which has been in the county’s custody, will not be put down. The bad news is that the appeal began in September 2009, which suggests that the dog has been in custody for well over a year and a half.

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