Miami-Dade Legislative Item
File Number: 120173
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File Number: 120173 File Type: Resolution Status: In Committee
Version: 0 Reference: Control: Public Safety & Healthcare Admin Cmte
File Name: STRAW BALLOT PIT BULL DOGS - Introduced: 1/27/2012
Requester: NONE Cost: Final Action:
Agenda Date: Agenda Item Number: 11A
Notes: NOTE TO CAO: Item in Commissioner's folder. Title: RESOLUTION PLACING A NON-BINDING STRAW BALLOT QUESTION ON THE PRIMARY ELECTION BALLOT IN MIAMI-DADE COUNTY, FLORIDA, TO BE HELD ON TUESDAY, AUGUST 14, 2012, FOR THE PURPOSE OF SUBMITTING TO THE ELECTORS OF MIAMI-DADE COUNTY WHETHER THEY SUPPORT THE COUNTY’S CURRENT BAN ON PIT BULL DOGS AS A DANGEROUS DOG BREED
Indexes: ELECTIONS
  CHARTER AMENDMENT
Sponsors: Sen. Javier D. Souto, Prime Sponsor
Sunset Provision: No Effective Date: Expiration Date:
Registered Lobbyist: None Listed


Legislative History

Acting Body Date Agenda Item Action Sent To Due Date Returned Pass/Fail

Public Safety & Healthcare Admin Cmte 2/14/2012 2B Tabled P
REPORT: Assistant County Attorney Valda Clark Christian read the foregoing proposed resolution into the record. Ms. Margorie Goodman, 13740 SW 78 Court, requested the Committee not pass this proposed resolution. She noted County laws related to pit bulls were based on junk science. She explained that genetic testing by Mars Veterinary concluded that the term pit bull did not refer to a single dog breed, rather pit bulls were a genetically diverse group of breeds, and a DNA profile for a pit bull could not be built. Ms. Goodman pointed out the language in the County laws defined a pit bull as any dog that exhibited those distinguishing characteristics that substantially conform to the standards established by the American Kennel Club or American Staffordshire Terrier or Staffordshire Bull Terrier, or substantially conform to the standards established by the American Kennel Club for American Pit Bull Terriers. She clarified that a dog could not conform to the standards since pit bulls were not a single breed. She questioned what percentage of a dog’s distinguishing characteristics needed to conform to those of a pit bull for a dog to meet the threshold of “substantially conform.” Ms. Goodman explained that the verbiage in County laws made it possible for any dog to be considered a pit bull. Ms. Dalia Caines, 6448 W 11 Lane, Hialeah, Director/Founder, Miami Coalition Against Breed Specific Legislation, spoke in opposition to this proposed resolution. She expressed appreciation to Commissioner Heyman and Chairman Diaz for their work with the animal community. She explained that the local government had taught county residents to fear pit bulls for 23 years. Ms. Caines explained that she had worked with County Commissioners for over a decade to remove the ban on pit bulls, and that she had no alternative except to appeal to the State Legislature to address this issue. She noted taxpayers paid $3 million annually to enforce the ban on pit bulls. Mr. James Cueva, 1000 NW 57 Court, spoke in opposition to this proposed resolution. He noted he submitted his comments in writing to each commissioner on February 13, 2012. He urged the the Committee to allow the State Legislature do its job. He pointed out that this County was the only one in the state of Florida with breed specific legislation. He noted the County had a dangerous dogs statute and the ban on pit bulls was bad public policy. Mr. Cueva pointed out that the County did not conduct a straw poll before implementing the ban on pit bulls. Assistant County Attorney Oren Rosenthal advised that this proposed resolution should be amended to change “20” to “23” on handwritten page four. Commissioner Souto noted the United States of America was a democratic country and the straw vote in this proposed resolution was part of the democratic process. Commissioner Heyman noted the way dogs were socialized and trained determined whether they were dangerous. She pointed out that the current dangerous dog ordinance served the same purpose as the ban on pit bulls. She explained pit bulls were not high on the Animal Services Department list of aggressive dogs and bites. Commissioner Heyman expressed concern that the State Legislature was addressing this issue, which would preempt the County’s Home Rule Charter and Amendment (Charter). She noted the State Legislature session would end March 9, which was prior to the next Committee meeting scheduled on March 13, 2012. She suggested the Committee defer this proposal to March 13. Commissioner Souto noted he was opposed to deferring this proposed resolution. Commissioner Bovo asked the Animal Services Department Director to verify whether the fiscal impact to the County of the pit bull ban was $3 million. Mr. Alex Munoz, Director, Animal Services, pointed out that $3 million was more than the department’s entire budget for enforcement, and that pit bulls accounted for two percent of the enforcement expenses. Commissioner Bovo requested an update on the legislation in Tallahassee that would preempt the Charter and end the County ban on pit bulls. Mr. Munoz noted he spoke with Assistant County Attorney Jess McCarty earlier in the day, and the proposed legislation had committee meetings in both the Florida House of Representatives and the Florida Senate. He noted the committee meetings were not scheduled, and would require 36 hours advanced notice. Commissioner Bovo questioned whether the ban on pit bulls resulted in a mass decrease in the number of dog maulings. Mr. Munoz noted he did not have data dating back to 1989 when the ban on pit bulls was put in place. He explained that in 2011, approximately 400 pit bulls were in County animal shelters. He pointed out the number bites by pit bulls was very low. Commissioner Bovo questioned how the County would handle a situation where a breed other than a pit bull mauled a child. Mr. Munoz explained the County would treat that dog as a dangerous dog and quarantine it to check for rabies. He clarified the County would not treat the dog of another breed any different than a pit bull. Commissioner Bovo noted he would support placing a question on the ballot. He expressed concern regarding the State Legislature dictating to the County what it should do. He suggested the Committee wait until the State Legislative session ended before voting on this proposal. Commissioner Bell noted Cocker Spaniels bit more than pit bulls, however, the damage done by a pit bull was greater. She expressed opposition to placing this question on the ballot at this time. In response to Commissioner Jordan’s question regarding the impact of the State Legislature passing the related proposed legislation, Assistant County Attorney Rosenthal advised that legislation would preempt the County law and make it unenforceable. Commissioner Jordan noted she supported this proposed resolution. She expressed concern that the State Legislature would preempt the County Charter. She noted the County should send a message to the Legislature but expressed concern that the County could not send that message before the Legislature acted on the related proposed legislation. Chairman Diaz noted the Committee had to consider two issues: 1) the County ordinance banning pit bulls, and 2) the Legislature attempting to preempt the Charter. He stressed that the commissioners have sworn an oath to protect the Charter and expressed concern regarding the consequences of the County allowing the Legislature to preempt the Charter in just one instance. Chairman Diaz noted the way to address fears over pit bulls was education. He pointed out the dogs became dangerous because their owners trained them to be vicious. Discussion ensued among Committee members regarding the County protecting the Charter and the best course of action regarding this proposed resolution. Commissioner Bovo noted he contacted State Representative Trujillo, who indicated he would stop pursuing the issue at the State level if the County Commission put removal of the pit bull ban on the ballot as a binding ballot question, rather than a non-binding straw vote. It was moved by Commissioner Souto that this proposed resolution be tabled. This motion was seconded by Commissioner Heyman, and upon being put to a vote, passed by a vote of 6-0. Pursuant to Assistant County Attorney Rosenthal advising the Committee on how to accomplish the will of the Committee to repeal the pit bull ban if approved by voters, it was moved by Commissioner Souto that the County Attorney prepare an ordinance that would repeal County legislation that banned county residents from owning pit bulls with an effective date after the August 14, 2012, primary election and contingent upon the passage of a referendum by voters to repeal the pit bull ban. This motion was seconded by Commissioner Heyman, and upon being put to a vote, passed by a vote of 6-0. Ms. Caines requested the ballot language use “breed specific ban” as opposed to “pit bull ban.” Chairman Diaz asked the Office of Intergovernmental Affairs Director to prepare a letter reflecting the intent of this Committee regarding the pit bull ban and to distribute this letter to the State Legislature.

County Attorney 1/27/2012 Referred Public Safety & Healthcare Admin Cmte 2/14/2012

County Attorney 1/27/2012 Assigned Oren Rosenthal

Legislative Text


TITLE
RESOLUTION PLACING A NON-BINDING STRAW BALLOT QUESTION ON THE PRIMARY ELECTION BALLOT IN MIAMI-DADE COUNTY, FLORIDA, TO BE HELD ON TUESDAY, AUGUST 14, 2012, FOR THE PURPOSE OF SUBMITTING TO THE ELECTORS OF MIAMIDADE COUNTY WHETHER THEY SUPPORT THE COUNTY’S CURRENT BAN ON PIT BULL DOGS AS A DANGEROUS DOG BREED

BODY
BE IT RESOLVED BY THE BOARD OF COUNTY COMMISSIONERS OF MIAMI-DADE COUNTY, FLORIDA, that:
Section 1. A non-binding straw ballot question shall be placed on the Tuesday, August 14, 2012 primary election for the purpose of submitting to the qualified electors of Miami-Dade County the non-binding straw ballot question as set forth below.
Section 2. Notice of such election shall be published in accordance with Section 100.342, Florida Statutes.
Section 3. The result of such election shall be determined by a majority of the qualified electors of Miami-Dade County voting upon the proposal. The polls at such election shall be open from 7:00 a.m. until 7:00 p.m. on the day of such election. All qualified electors of Miami-Dade County, Florida shall be entitled to vote at said election. The County registration books shall remain open at the Office of the Miami-Dade County Supervisor of Elections until twenty-nine (29) days prior to the date of such election, at which time the registration books will close in accordance with the provisions of general election laws. The question shall appear on the ballot in substantially the following form:
NON-BINDING STRAW BALLOT QUESTION ON THE COUNTY’S BAN ON PIT BULL DOGS

Do you support the county’s current ban on pit bull dogs as a dangerous dog breed which was initially adopted by the Board of County Commissioners over 20 years ago?

YES

NO

Section 4. The form of the ballot shall be in accordance with the requirements of general election laws.
Section 5. Early voting shall be conducted in accordance with the requirements of general election laws.
Section 6. Absentee paper ballots may be used by qualified electors of Miami-Dade County for voting on this question. The form of such absentee ballot shall be in accordance with the requirements prescribed by general election laws.
Section 7. A sample ballot showing the manner in which the question or proposal aforesaid will appear at this election shall be published and provided in accordance with the applicable provisions of general election laws.
Section 8. This election on the proposal aforesaid shall be held and conducted in accordance with applicable provisions of the general laws relating to elections and the provisions of the Miami-Dade County Home Rule Charter. The County Mayor or his or her designee, the Finance Director, and the Clerk of the County Commission are hereby authorized and directed to take all appropriate actions necessary to carry into effect and accomplish the provisions of this resolution. This election shall be a nonpartisan election. Election officials in connection with this election shall be appointed in accordance with the provisions of general election laws.
Section 9. This election shall be canvassed by the County Canvassing Board, in accordance with the provisions of Section 3.07 of the Home Rule Charter.





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