Broward Commissioners Approve Vice Mayor Sharief's Proposal to Increase Fines to Promote Responsible Dog Ownership
DATE: February 27, 2013
MEDIA CONTACT: Kimberly Maroe, Public Information Manager
Broward County Commission
PHONE: 954-357-8053

An increase in fines for dogs who have been trained to fight, are unlicensed, or not spayed or neutered has been initially approved by Broward County Commissioners. On Tuesday, Commissioners directed the Broward County attorney to amend an existing ordinance that increases fines from a sliding scale (dependent on income) to $500 for dogs trained to “fight” and $300 for dogs not licensed or spayed/neutered. 

“I took these fines to the maximum allowed by the state legislature. I don't think you should have a first, second and third chance for a dog to hurt somebody or have an irresponsible pet owner have a pet running loose in neighborhoods. We have discount programs for vaccination and registration of animals, and I just want you to know that I have sat in the animal care court and the large majority of those dogs that come up in there are not registered and not vaccinated,” said Vice Mayor Barbara Sharief, who brought forward the proposal.

“That increase in fines is incredibly responsible, because what our focus really should be is to go after bad dog owners. They're the ones that are responsible for turning dogs vicious,” said Commissioner Martin David Kiar.

“As we talked about the penalties, I would seek the strictest penalties possible within our power and also seek to increase those penalties. We attack the problem, which is poor human behavior, and not banning a breed,” said Commissioner Chip LaMarca.

Commissioners did not vote on a proposal to support legislation that favored asking the state legislature to allow Broward County to ban Pit Bulls, or related breeds. Instead, Vice Mayor Sharief acted in favor of organizing a group of pet experts, Pit Bull owners and other interested parties to discuss and create viable solutions to fairly control aggressive dogs prevalent throughout Broward County. The meeting will be convened within the next few weeks.

“I'm curious to see what comes back after this group and your staff have an engaged conversation to take the work that you've already done for the last year and come back with a new item for this Commission to consider. You didn’t come to this discussion uninformed and you don't take this lightly,” said Mayor Kristin Jacobs.

Commissioner Lois Wexler encouraged recommendations she received from a constituent regarding regulation of Pit Bulls. “Much of this was talked about today: Have Pit Bulls be registered by their owners, making it illegal to have an unregistered Pit Bull. Impose hefty fines or criminal charges on owners of Pit Bulls, make it illegal to breed them since they are so many oftentimes abandoned, and have registered Pit Bulls neutered so that there won't be any risk of breeding. And every one of these recommendations to me at least from where I'm sitting makes some sense and I hope is somewhat considered as to move forward on this.”

“When I was a younger woman, the Doberman was the bad dog, and then it was the Rottweiler which was the bad dog and then it was the German Shepherd which was the bad dog. There's always a dog that sparks the attention of the masses as to which is the bad one and the truth is that none of those breeds are bad. They just have a bad upbringing, and in my opinion, it's the same with Pit Bulls,” said Commissioner Stacy Ritter.

“I had problems with it being breed specific. I really think 'dangerous dog' says a lot more than a specific breed because it means it was most times the owner's fault,” said Commissioner Sue Gunzburger.

“Let me say congratulations for your efforts, Vice Mayor Sharief, in bringing the item forward. You identified through the constituents you represent that there is an issue in your community, and you seek to bring a solution to that. So I commend you for that. And I support your decision to go forward with one portion and leave the other,” said Commissioner Dale Holness.

“It's really all about the owners, and I think that is something we've learned and it's really been repeated over and over, and it's something for us to remember,” added Commissioner Tim Ryan, who recalled the many dogs he came in contact with when campaigning door to door.

The amendment to increase fines and the recommendations developed by the committee will be brought back to the Commission for future discussion and approval.
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