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January 25, 2006
Bad dogs face death penalty

Menacing dogs in Alachua County that are deemed dangerous by county officials must be euthanized, the County Commission decided Tuesday.

"I just think we need to be aggressive when dealing with aggressive animals," Commissioner Paula M. DeLaney said. "When it comes down to the bad dog versus the general public, I'm going to side with the general public."

The mandatory euthanasia law will take effect Feb. 1. The 24 dogs currently classified as dangerous in Alachua County will not be euthanized, said Ray Sim, director of animal services.

A dog can be considered "dangerous" by animal services for reasons such as attacking, biting or killing a person, according to county law.

Sim said there are also "sticky situations," such as when a dog approaches a person as if it will attack.

Before the animal is killed, Sim said the county will continue to follow the current procedure, which includes the dog owner's opportunity to appeal the county's decision.

"I view it as a favorable change in light of public safety," Sim said. "This is progressively better for our community."

He added that the ordinance is not breed specific, since that is illegal according to Florida law.

The initial recommendation was for any dogs declared dangerous to be removed from Alachua County or euthanized. However, Commissioner Mike Byerly suggested eliminating the option of relocating the dog.

"We're going to basically send the problem outside the county," he said.

More than a dozen citizens at the meeting shared their experiences with aggressive dogs.

Several described incidences of menacing dogs that followed them.

Gainesville resident Dana Hill became emotional as he described how two dogs mauled his cat, Lucy, in his backyard in November. He said Lucy died five days later.

"We all invest a lot emotionally in our pets," Hill said. "When she died, it was a really devastating blow."

Gainesville resident Toni Fair spoke against the new law as she described her love for her dog, Elvis, who was declared to be dangerous by animal services after acting aggressively toward a neighbor and chasing a postal worker.

Gainesville resident Kathy Meiss has worked to bring the issue of dangerous dogs to the county's attention since early 2004.

"I'm very pleased because they put the safety of the public as their No. 1 priority," Meiss said.

Source : alligator