Last updateFri, 04 Jul 2014 5pm

Cardelle v. Miami Dade

Dade County Appellate Court Rules That Animal Control Officer Not An
Expert In Visual Identification of Pitbulls

Cardelle v. Miami-Dade Animal Control 

The Dade County Appellate Court, sitting in Miami, has reversed a finding made by Miami Animal Control that a dog "substantially conformed" to the "Pit Bull" standards contained in the Miami code.  The case is Cardelle v. Miami-Dade County Code Enforcement, and the opinion can be read in its entirety here.

The ruling was 3-1 for reversal.  The opinion is important, because it questions the entire process of identifying pit bulls visually.  Although animal control officer Casadevall gave extensive qualifications, the court ruled that nothing is his background made him an expert in pit bull identification. The fact that the officer took no measurements of the dog, and stood two and a half feet away to view the dog and then went out to his truck and filled out the conformation form, also cast doubt on the veracity of the identification. The officer found 37 characteristics conforming and 10 not conforming. The defense put on a strong case with the owner and two veterinarians testifying that the dog was not a pit bull.

The animal control officer refused to answer questions about what percentage of dogs he found conformed, but it was clear from his answer that he was evading the issue. The court stated that the officer "did nothing to  perform quality control and validate existing data." Thus, although he testified he had done over 1,000 evalautions, there was no attempt to determine whether any of his finding were verified. "The mere quantity of his inspections does not render his opinion reliable."

The court also found that the hearing officer was biased which violated due process and that he relied when he ruled on the fear that the dog would later hurt someone.

This is the first appellate case I have seen regarding a pit bull confirmation, and provides a blueprint for how to defend these cases.

Is it time for a Daubert/Frye challenge to visual pit bull classifications?


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