‘Dangerous dogs’: Royal Palm gives initial OK to change definition

Updated Feb 23, 2018
Royal Palm Beach is moving forward with changing its definition of what makes a dog “dangerous.” (Contributed photo by asommerh via Pixabay)

Royal Palm Beach has taken the first step toward making it easier for the village to declare dogs dangerous.

The village council voted unanimously Feb. 15 to give initial approval for the move, which would bring Royal Palm Beach’s definitions of aggressive, dangerous or vicious dogs in line with those of Palm Beach County Animal Care and Control, village director of community development Rob Hill said.

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“We want to go ahead and recognize those within our own ordinance,” Hill said. The council will have a second and final reading and public hearing on the changes at its March 1 meeting.

Royal Palm Beach’s code bans dogs that have been declared dangerous or vicious from within village boundaries. But some residents have expressed concern about the criteria a dog must meet before it is labeled dangerous or vicious, Mayor Fred Pinto said.

Under the current code, for a dog to be declared dangerous it must attack, cause serious injury or endanger a human twice within a 12-month period, or attack and cause serious injury or death to a domestic animal while off the owner’s property twice in a 12-month period.

The new definition would remove that 12-month restriction, giving the village the opportunity to declare a dog dangerous regardless of the number of attacks or how close together they take place.

“A dog that has instances within a 12-month period could quite often, if it goes beyond that, start another rolling period, and that doesn’t serve our residents well,” Hill said.

He pointed to a person who reported to the village a dog that had attacked two domestic animals while off its owner’s property. But because the incidents took place 13 months apart, the owner was not in violation of Royal Palm Beach’s code.

The definitions being adopted have been tried and tested by Animal Care and Control, even when it comes to animal-rights challenges, village attorney Jennifer Ashton said.

It also will streamline the process of declaring a dog dangerous: “Assuming the dog is declared dangerous by the county, it will automatically be dangerous in the village of Royal Palm Beach,” Ashton said.

Pinto said Friday the changes were in the works before a pit bull attacked and killed a Yorkshire Terrier last month at Pooch Pines Dog Park at Okeeheelee Park just east of Wellington.

“We had gotten feedback from our citizens,” Pinto said. “We thought, let’s have it safer for our citizens, and empower our folks to do more.”