Fri08292014

Last updateFri, 04 Jul 2014 5pm

Miami, FL

Miami Should Mount Cardelle Visual ID Legal Challenge

After Miami's Referendum Failure Why Not A Legal Challenge?

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There's not much positive to be said about the failure to repeal BSL in Miami.  But if you want to look at the glass half full, read Brent Toellner's article here. Brent will be our guest on Tuesday's upcoming radio show.

You can argue about the ballot language, but I think the time for that challenge has passed.  If that was an issue, it probably had to be raised before the election.

At this point, I think a court challenge based on Cardelle v. Miami Dade should be considered.  First, I'd like to know how the county is proving breed in court.  Based on Cardelle, they are not legally permitted to use animal control officers for visual identification of breed.  Someone should go down to a hearing and see how they are doing it.  If they are using animal control officers, then they are violating the dictates of the Cardelle decision, and are proceeding unethically.

Read more: Miami Should Mount Cardelle Visual ID Legal Challenge

Politics, Pit Bulls and The Man Behind The Curtain

Commisioner admits ban ineffective

Miami-Dade enacted a ban on pit bulls in 1987. Over the course of the past 25 years the Commissioners have ignored and dismissed the voices of residents across Dade County and specifically within the Miami Metro area. Until now.

Until Representative Carlos Trujillio introduced HB997, a bill that would remove Miami-Dade’s power to leave the ban in effect. The bill has gained traction recently and is scheduled to go before a House Panel tomorrow. Representative Trujillio stated via text messages with Commissioner Esteban Bovo that he would agree to pull his support from the bill if the Commission followed through with adding the ban repeal to the August ballot.

This has advocates from all levels concerned. Miami-Dade has failed to hear pleas for change for more than two-decades. The voice of the people was discounted and rarely heard in years past, the sudden willingness of the Commission to now provide voters the opportunity to make a statement appears nothing short of an attempt to protect the local government’s power over the people.

Read more: Politics, Pit Bulls and The Man Behind The Curtain

Legal Classification of Mixed Breed Pitbulls-Miami

Legal Classification of Mixed Breed Pitbulls - Miami

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Scientific or Junk Science?

Working on BDL cases allows me to see inside the procedures used by various cities and counties to classify mixed breed dogs as pitbulls. There is no national training that I have ever seen on visual identification of mixed breed pit bulls.  Nor is there any science that indicates that such identifications are accurate.  In fact, the current science of visual identification shows that shelter personnel are only 25% accurate when judging breed by visual identification. Victoria Voith wrote the article and the information can be seen here. If experts cannot determine mixed breeds by visual identification, how can animal control personnel accurately do so?

But they do. All over the US. The leading case on animal control officers being used to identify pitbulls is Cardelle v. Miami Dade, a case that has been discussed before here.

So what actually happened at the trial in Cardelle v. Miami Dade?  You can read the entire transcript here. Read it and be amazed. The trial transcript will lead you to several conclusions:

  1. The trial process is totally unfair; the fact finder is simply biased [God forbid something happens];
  2. The animal control officer did not make a fair assessment-he looked at the dog from several feet [I didn't want to get that close to it.] and then went out to his truck to fill out the form;
  3. The animal control officer has NEVER had the accuracy of his evaluations confirmed-just because you do a lot of them doesn't mean they are accurate;
  4. The animal control officer is being coy when he says he does not know how many dogs he has classified as pit bulls-he simply does not want anyone to know it is close to 100%;
  5. The animal control officer knows that his evaluations are not scientific, when he refuses to test the accuracy of his background with pictures [I'm not going to speculate.];
  6. The dividing line of 50% is arbitrary-as we know they have changed the percentage now to 70%. 

The attorney representing the Cardelle's clearly had problems with the affidavits from the veterinarians.  Either they refused to say the dog was "predominantly" pit bull as the statute required, or the attorney failed to properly track the statute in creating the affidavits.  This was an important issue, because the judge was allowed to disregard the affidavits because they did not rule out the dog was a mixed breed pit.

Clearly the court was mortified at what happened at the trial level, and attempted to inject some science into what had thus far been a subjective process.  

And that is why they decided Cardelle v. Miami Dade in the manner they did.

The takeaway is that in every case, the government must be required to show there is science behind their classification. If you think Miami Dade is bad, you should see how they do it in Moses Lake, WA. But that is a story for another time.

Miami Dade Changes Classification Percentage for Pit Bulls

Miami-Dade Changes Classification Percentage for Pit Bulls

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Percentage changes from 50% to 70%

Miami Dade classifies Pit Bulls using a visual checklist.  Nobody knows where the original checklist came from. It started out with one check list for "Pit Bulls," and if your dog met 50% of the visual characteristics, it was declared a Pit Bull and was banished from the county or euthanized.  The checklist has been modified over the years, and now there are three different checklists for the three breeds of dogs that comprise the category of Pit Bull.

Recently, Miami Dade changed the percentage of visual characteristics for classification from 50% to 70%.  Nobody knows why, and the County has been completely and utterly silent on the issue.  I'm not even sure if it has been announced publicly. When the County was asked via email if they would reclassify a dog that had been classified under the 50% rule under the new 70% requirement, they responded that no re-classification would be done.

The 70% rule actually does meet the "clear and convincing" evidence standard required in forfeiture cases in Florida, and perhaps they are trying to head off that type of legal challenge.  But I don't think they are that proactive.

It would be interesting to see a legal challenge by an owner previously classified as 50% now requesting an automatic de-classification under the new rule.

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