By Dawn Krebs
PORT ST. LUCIE -- At a January meeting, the Port St. Lucie City Council unanimously voted to update its animal control ordinance, which previously defined what constituted dangerous dogs.
Now, the ordinance has been rewritten to encompass all aggressive animals.
The change came about because animal control officers discovered an ordinance similar to the city's had been declared unconstitutional in a lawsuit.
"The ordinance was used successfully until October 2011, at which time animal control attempted to declare an Akita that had attacked and severely injured a Jack Russell terrier as dangerous," said Todd Wallace and Bryan Lloyd, Port St. Lucie animal control supervisors. "We were informed by our legal council that an ordinance similar to ours was found to be unconstitutional."
The term "dangerous dog" conflicted with the state's dangerous dog statutes.
Looking closer, the city's ordinance did not provide for a proper appeal process for an animal that had not previously been declared dangerous, which could result in an animal being euthanized after only one incident.
Now the updated ordinance supplements the state ordinance by declaring an animal "aggressive" instead of "dangerous."
This will still offer residents protection from potentially aggressive animals and also includes an appeals process.
The new ordinance also provides for enhanced accountability of the animal's owners, which can include a fine of up to $500.