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Sun, Jul

Two Dog Attacks, One Fatal, Spur Senator to Draft Statewide “Dangerous Dog Registry” Law

ANIMAL WATCH

ANIMAL WATCH - The families of victims of two recent vicious attacks by loose, owned dogs identified as Pit Bulls—one fatal to a U.S. Postal Service mail carrier and the other resulting in severe injuries and the amputation of a U.S. Army veteran’s leg—have joined in an appeal to Florida Senator Travis Hutson to introduce a bill to create a statewide “Dangerous Dog Registry.” 

However, the effectiveness of any such action must include significant civil and criminal penalties for unprovoked attacks and endangering the community, not just in paying a higher license fee. 

On July 18, Hutson, announced that his office is “drafting legislation to address dangerous dogs after attacks.”

Among the revisions it would make to current Florida law is “the creation of statewide dangerous dog registry, which is similar to a sex offender registry, letting the public know where dangerous dogs are and creating strict guidelines for their owners.”

The impetus for this legislation is the 2022 death of Pamela Rock, rural letter carrier in Putnam County, who died from her injuries after she was mauled by five Pit-Bull-mix dogs known to have attacked in the community at least four times before (see story below.)

 

The family has been joined in the effort to prevent future attacks by the son of an 86-year-old Army veteran, Gertrude Bishop (aka “Ms. Terri”), in Hawthorne (also Putnam County), who was so badly injured by a neighbors two pit bull-mix dogs that, among other serious injuries, her leg had to be amputated, and whose story is also told below.

USPS Carrier Dies After Attack by Five Pit Bulls in Putnam County

Pamela Rock joined the United States Postal Service as a rural mail carrier in January of 2022. Seven months later, on August 21, while delivering packages in Interlachen, Florida, her vehicle broke down near a location where five aggressive Pit Bulls were loose in the yard.

She called for vehicle assistance and began delivering mail on foot, when the dogs easily escaped and savagely attacked her. After tremendous suffering, she died as a result of those injuries.

NO WRONGDOING WAS FOUND IN HER DEATH

On February 28, 2023 the I-TEAM News4JAX reported “Investigators find no wrongdoing after Postal worker dies in Putnam County dog attack.

The State Attorney’s Office told reporters it is not filing charges against the dog owner and OSHA investigation did not result in any safety violations. The memo explained that “federal and local investigations didn’t find wrongdoing by Rock’s employer or the dogs’ owner.”

The State Attorney also stated that “the dogs’ owner tried to surrender them twice, including 10 days before the attack. However, there was an admission that there were at least four incidents involving the dogs in the past few months prior to the attack.” See more here.

Within months after the horrific attack which caused the death of Pamela Rock, another tragic attack tragedy in the Hawthorne area of Putnam County, FL, left an 86-year-old Army veteran severely injured, with her leg amputated and no prosecution for either dog owner.

Pit Bull Attack in Hawthorne Severely Injures 86-year-old Woman

 

On May 27, 2023, News4JAX reported that 86-year-old Gertrude Bishop (known as “Ms. Terri”) had been attacked in Hawthorne (Putnam County) by dogs in the neighborhood.

Her son, Wayne Thomas, who received a call from his mother’s neighbor, told reporters that “If it wasn’t for the neighbors across the street, we might be talking about a different type of story.”

Thomas told reporters his mom was getting water out of her car when the two dogs (later identified as “Pit Bull-mixes) attacked her.

He said that her right ear is completely gone and she has multiple wounds all over her arms and both her legs and stitches on her face and mouth. Her right leg had to be amputated also as a result.

On June 8, 2023, News4JAX reported that “The Putnam County Sheriff’s Office is advising the State Attorney’s Office to charge the owner of dogs that attacked an 86-year-old woman three weeks ago, “with a second-degree misdemeanor for reckless disregard,” the report stated. (Emph. added)

Thomas told 4JAX News, “As a son for the life-long injuries she’s going to have to sustain and have to deal with, she has to come out of the hospital, and everything else that’s involved with that, to be frank, it’s a joke.”

BOTH FAMILIES SEEK JUSTICE!

The families of Pamela Rock and Gertrude Bishop are bonded together by tragic dog attacks, and with the help of media outlets, especially 4JAXNews. have made their stories and their appeal to State Senator Travis Hutson public. Thomas says his mother wants to become involved as soon as she is strong enough. There is no excuse for unquestioned attacks that maimed and killed, and no prosecution of either dog owner.

Hutson, who faces re-election in 2024, responded to the media with a willingness to help and announced he has directed his office to draft a bill similar to the Virginia law and includes a statewide “Dangerous Dog Registry,” (based on the model for the state’s “Sex-Offender Registry”.)

Rock’s family believes her death is the result of overlapping policy failures they’re now pushing to correct with tighter regulations on dangerous dogs, which are canines that have attacked people or pets.

“If we had done any of these things before, we would not have lost Pam,” said her brother Tom Rock.

They want Florida’s laws on dangerous dogs to look more like Virginia’s, which require them to be spayed or neutered, microchipped, insured up to $100,000, and put on a “Dangerous Dog Registry.”

Their owners have to share their location, contact information, and what the dog did, and it’s all posted online.

Their owners also have to pay yearly fees that go toward the registry, which is maintained by the state.

The proposal would also include the creation of a statewide a public, on-line “Dangerous Dog Registry,” which is similar to the Florida Sex-Offender Registry. (See: Florida Sex Offender Laws In 2023)

Here are links to the Virginia State site:

Virginia Dangerous Dog law (§ 3.2-6540. Dangerous dogs; investigation, summons, and hearing 

Virginia Vicious Dog Code

DOES THIS LAW GO FAR ENOUGH TO PREVENT ATTACKS?

Here is a link to “VIRGINIA LAW SUMMARY BY LINGEN LAW,” which states it was last updated on March 23, 2023, and may provide a more in-depth analysis from this attorney’s perspective (I am not familiar with this firm. I have any connection to it nor have I contacted anyone there. This is provided as information only.)

Anyone who is seriously interested in understanding this law should go directly to the State’s website.

However, this Quick Guide to Virginia Dangerous Dog Laws by Lingen Law Firm seems to offer a lot of basic information.

And, Los Angeles Dog Bite Law attorney Ken Philips also weighs in on the Virginia law, stating:

“Virginia is a ‘one bite’ state as well as a ‘contributory negligence’ state. Being negligent or breaking an animal control law will make a person liable for a dog bite, but someone partially responsible for causing the incident cannot recover any compensation,” he says.

He provides an Overview and a section titled, Virginia must change its laws.

It appears, according to the description of the proposal, this would purportedly let the public know where dangerous dogs (not breed specific) live or are licensed and also create guidelines for owners of dogs that have a prior record of attack or aggression.

PROPOSAL MUST GO BEYOND A “DANGEROUS DOG REGISTRY”

Senator Travis Hutson (represents District 7 of the Florida State Senate, He assumed office on November 8, 2016. His current term ends on November 5, 2024.

It would be foolish to speculate on his ability to get a Dangerous Dog Registry in Florida before that; but, we hope he can make progress toward greater safety.

However, laws cannot operate in a vacuum. It is obvious that the staffing of the animal control agency in his District is woefully inadequate.

It must also include increased funding for animal control personnel to assure response and adequate sheltering facilities to impound dogs involved in attacks and loose, abandoned, stray and unwanted dogs which are a health/safety hazard and a danger to humans and pets.

His proposal must also include investigators and prosecutorial staff to take appropriate and timely action against violators and allow known aggressive dogs to be euthanized before they kill or maim. Thus, the possibility of more tragedies like Pamela Rock (where the owner had already requested animal control to remove the dogs) and Gertrude Bishop (who was attacked by dogs that were previously loose) and other unknown past—and potential future—victims can be saved from attacks.

There is no excuse for this obvious dysfunction by and between governmental agencies, which are funded by the taxpayers’ money to provide public safety.

 

(Phyllis M. Daugherty is a former Los Angeles City employee, an animal activist and a contributor to CityWatch.)