Alachua County residents have asked the County Commission to respond to a slew of dog attacks since September. They finally got a change on Tuesday.
The commission voted unanimously to pass an irresponsible owners clause which would create a new section in the Alachua County Animal Services code. It aims to protect citizens and animals from owners who fail to care for their pets.
The public hearing and ordinance came after five dog attacks in Alachua County, beginning in September.
The attacks began when Bella the beagle-labrador mix was killed in September. The most recent attack was on March 22, when five pit bulls escaped and attacked a woman and her dog.
Commissioner Ken Cornell said he never thought this was an issue the county commission would have to address, but he is glad they could help as much as they can.
“Whatever we need to do to prosecute those irresponsible owners who cannot take care of their animals, I want us to do,” he said during the meeting.
Under the clause, if a pet owner fails to care for their pets in any way, which includes a pet attacking someone else, they are placed on an irresponsible owners list, said Ed Williams, director of animal services, during the meeting. After at least three violations, the owner will be placed on the list of irresponsible owners.
Owners on that list will be required to microchip and spay or neuter their pet in order to keep it, Williams said. If animal services take the pet and it is deemed dangerous, it will be euthanized.
“This would make the buck stop where it should when it comes to being a responsible pet owner,” Williams said.
Adele Franson, a Gainesville resident, said she is happy that the county is addressing the issue but thinks the real issue is a dysfunctional system. She said bringing an educational program to animal services would show owners how to handle an aggressive pet and would be better in the long run.
“I wish there was a different thought process in the culture,” she said. “I think there’s a lack of understanding where these animals get killed without the possibility of rehabilitation.”