Miami-Dade County: Gone Too Far

November 17, 2013  

Animal Law 3

Felix Conde, a Miami-Dade County resident, is a disabled person under the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) and should be accompanied by Lucky, his service animal, at all times.  Lucky happens to be a pit bull type dog, who is trained to recognize when Mr. Conde is short of breath and to retrieve his rescue inhaler.  Since 1989, Miami has enforced an ordinance that prohibits ownership of pit bull dogs within the jurisdiction, without making any exceptions for service animals.  Our constitution tells us that federal law will trump state and local law in the event of a conflict, and several prior cases in other jurisdictions have already settled this question.  Despite this, Miami-Dade County ordered that Lucky be removed from the county and assessed over $10,000 in penalties against Mr. Conde, who responded with a lawsuit filed earlier this week.

The lawsuit alleges that the ordinance is preempted by the ADA and must be declared unenforceable.  “There is simply no way a breed-specific ownership ban can survive under federal law, so as to be enforced against a disabled person and their service dog.  Other courts have reached the same conclusion.  But during the prior proceedings the County just refused to listen”, said the Plaintiffs’ attorney, Andy Dogali of Tampa.

Earlier this year, at least 7 officers, in 3 patrol cars, forcibly entered Mr. Conde’s home at 6am, awakening and frightening his children.  Lucky was not even in the home at this time, as Mr. Conde had already complied with the order to remove his service dog from the county.  Mr. Conde then experienced a catastrophic car accident due to the lack of his service animal where he suffered from dual collapsed lungs, brain swelling, facial fractures, and other severe injuries.  He had to be placed in a medically-induced coma for several months, and remains in the hospital.

Last year, Aurelia, Iowa banned a pit bull type service dog when James Sak, a disabled Vietnam Veteran and retired Chicago police officer, moved to the city.  The city eventually settled with Sak, allowing him to keep his service dog and reimbursing him for his legal expenses.  The battle was fought with taxpayer funds that could have been used to actually make the community safer through effective breed-neutral dangerous dog laws, instead of targeting a harmless service dog.[1]  Judge Bennett, in his order granting Sak’s preliminary injunction allowing him to keep his pit bull type service dog at his home, said: “This is one small, but vital step for Sak, one giant leap for pit bull service dogs.”[2]

Just last month, a Maryland Circuit Court ordered the return of a Prince George’s County disabled resident’s pit bull type service dog, holding the County’s enforcement of their pit bull ban against a person with disabilities was in violation of state and federal law.  You can read more about this case in our recent article here.

The Department of Justice has expressly stated: “The Department does not believe that it is either appropriate or consistent with the ADA to defer to local laws that prohibit certain breeds of dogs…Such deference would have the effect of limiting the rights of persons with disabilities under the ADA who use certain service animals based on where they live rather than on whether the use of a particular animal poses a direct threat to the health and safety of others.”[3]  Lucky has never shown any sign of aggression or other threat to the health or safety of others.

Miami-Dade County has ignored the law, and has caused great suffering in doing so. Now, tax payers are paying for the County’s defense.

[1] Coleman, Stacey.  “Aurelia City Council Reaches Settlement on “Pit Bull” Service Dog Case,” Press Release, Animal Farm Foundation, July 12, 2012.

[2] James Sak and Peggy Leifer v. The City of Aurelia, Iowa, US District Court for the Northern District of Iowa, Western Division, No. C 11-4111-MWB, Memorandum Opinion and Order Regarding Plaintiffs’ Motion for Preliminary Injunction

[3] Id.

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13 Responses to “Miami-Dade County: Gone Too Far”
  1. Amanda Brown says:

    I have the most wonderful pitbul.I am disabled with MS. Bella helps mr up and doen the stairs and laIys at the bathroom door when I’m in the shower. If I fall she will bark to get my husbands attention. i don’t know what I would do without her. She’s great and her being a pitbull is just a plus 🙂

  2. Jackie Stanly says:

    Dade county must be made up of the most ignorant politians for anyone with common sense or intelligence, which they must be lacking, knows that it isn’t the breed, it’s the owner.

  3. WickedCats says:

    It’s going to cost us money, but I hope the Miami-Dade county government gets it’s ass handed to it!!!! They have skirted the issue of the state of Florida making it unlawful to have BSL, by constantly spouting it’s “home-rules” government. Okay, here you have it. You nearly cost this man his life. Get ready to pay.

    This law has already cost this county millions of dollars, as it is impossible to enforce! There is already a dangerous dog ordinance in this county, and this is over-kill. Thanks to the media and their sensationalism this breed is already the underdog.

    I’m praying that this man recovers and is able to live in this county with HIS dog!!!! And if it costs me more in tax dollars to make sure this idiotic law is gone then so be it.

    • selwyn marock says:

      Even getting rid of that make believe vet pizano has not helped much.Is sean Gallagher still at animal-control,Evilness personified,absolute Human-Garbage,he gets a turn-on Murdering dogs. (edited)

  4. Devon R. says:

    Dade County should be held accountable. They were terribly wrong in the way the dealt with Mr. Conde’s situation. I am not a litigious individual, but in this case, I say sue the county. It won’t make things right, but hopefully will allow Mr. Conde to get the treatment that he needs without the worry of medical and other expenses.

  5. Iman Oldgeek says:

    It’s a shame that discrimination like this goes on and on. If this sort of prejudice is applied to people, the courts and press are all up in arms protecting the rights of those being discriminated against. Imagine what would happen if the groups considered most likely to commit crime were required to move out of a city, regardless of any wrongdoing. Boy, the press would have a field day.

    I know many people who own pit bulls and breeds most often mistaken for them. The most serious issue was one was a foster who just didn’t like other male dogs. Not human-agressive at all, fine with cats and female dogs. I wish we could say that humans were overall as dependable and loyal and non-violent as pit bulls are by nature.

    • Beth M says:

      Iman Oldgeek stated: “It’s a shame that discrimination like this goes on and on. If this sort of prejudice is applied to people, the courts and press are all up in arms protecting the rights of those being discriminated against. Imagine what would happen if the groups considered most likely to commit crime were required to move out of a city, regardless of any wrongdoing.”

      I think that pretty much sums it up as far as how breed specific legislation works – well said!

  6. Jerry Edelman says:

    Unfortunately because the county is full of corrupt officials and a TOTALLY incompetent animals services department, issues like this continually happen. They fail to aggressively go after abusive owners often leaving animals in the hands of the abusers only to be further abused and then dumped at the shelter and then eventually killed. What we need in Miami is a TOTAL cleaning out of the entire government county commission who tolerates the abuse and could care less about the welfare of the animals, as well as a TOTAL replacement of the entire management team that operates the shelter and is in charge of enforcement. The current commission does not have the moral ethics to overturn BSL so I am extremely supportive of this lawsuit and look forward to a successful outcome against the county and MDAS.

  7. Barbara Evans says:

    The fact that this County’s obstinate behavior may cause this man to lose his life is beyond belief. The county should have to pay all medical costs this man incurs due to their unlawful stand. If he dies I hope the family sues them into bankruptcy! I guess that is what it will take to make THEM abide by federal law.
    I also feel that the media should share blame for the situation this poor man finds himself in. Their blatent prejudice agains Pit Bulls keeps feeding these kind of bans. They don’t want to tell stories about how Pit Bulls have saved people’s lives that isn’t sensational enough, only when a Pit Bull attacks someone do they air it. The sad thing is that I personally have seen news stating a Pit Bull had attacked a child when they showed a picture of a dog that was most likely a Lab mix. NOT Pit Bull at all. When I challenged the station I never even got a reply of any kind. Education is the only thing that is going to help these poor dogs. Are there bad Pit Bulls, yes, but there are a lot of bad people too and we can’t ban them.

  8. PITBULL MAFIA says:

    You mean to tell me that after 25 yrs of BSL and 23 yrs of a state level ban on BSL where the law can not be changed or altered in any way, the county attorney filed for an ex parte for a blanket search warrant and fined this man $10,000 even after the report clearly states the dog was not on the premises. The amount of violations that were committed in this civil case only leads me to believe this is all setup by someone in the high ranks that wants this law abolished and does not want to committ political suicide! Now Miami-Dade is open to a lawsuit where the money comes out of the residents pockets? They need to stop being such spineless snakes and just admit that BSL is a thing of the past!

    Read the case and judge for yourself

  9. Kathy Dobin says:

    What idiots run Miami dade county!!! It is not the dogs but, the people who raise them to be mean . Walk the streets of Miami and get rid of all the scum instead. Leave the pits alone!! So what’s next Shih-tzu’s? I have one that bites! Sounds like a different form of racism to me!!!!!

  10. Jaymie Chittum says:

    This county consists of corrupt officials. Why are they reelected? Animal services employees are untrained and do not address the real problems. MDAS is run by someone who doesn’t care about the welfare of the animals. REAL animal abuse exists in this county and is ignored. I’ve been told there’s very little dog fighting going on there when I complained. Really! Why are bait dogs found by rescuers? Animal Services does nothing about “trunking.” MDAS needs new management.
    BSL does not work. BSL could have been repealed but the majority of Miami Dade residents voted against it. Join the rest of the state of Florida which prohibits any breed specific laws. I fully support this man’s lawsuit and I’m so sorry he’s going through this. He will win and he should. The taxpayers of Miami Dade will pay for it. That money could have been used toward the cost of a new MDAS building.

  11. Daniela Garcia says:

    PitBulls are the most loving and caring dogs ever. I can nit believe what Miami Dade did to this poor man and his service dog. I hope the family of that man sues because that is what that county deserves. I hope that he is OK and I will be praying for him and his family.