IN THE CIRCUIT COURT FOR THE SIXTH JUDICIAL CIRCUIT
vs. Appeal No. 06-0038AP-88B
Judge Dorothy L. Vaccaro
Robert G. Walker, Jr., Esquire
Attorney for Appellant
Michelle Wallace, Assistant
Attorney for Appellee
ORDER AND OPINION
THIS CAUSE came before the Court on appeal, filed by Ken O’Keefe (O’Keefe), from the Amended Order Affirming Finding of Animal Control Authority, entered May 17, 2006. Upon review of the briefs, the record and being otherwise fully advised, the Court affirms the trial court’s ruling as set forth below.
The record shows that on October 12, 2004, Pinellas County Animal Services confiscated O’Keefe’s two dogs, Rusty and Bonita, after a bite investigation. Dr. Agnew, of the Animal Control Authority, found that Rusty and Bonita met the criteria of a “dangerous animal,” as defined by the Pinellas County Code, section 14-26, in determining that the dogs should be destroyed in accordance with Code section 14-65. Pursuant to the Pinellas County Code, O’Keefe requested and was provided with a review hearing.
Following the hearing, the hearing officer entered its order, on November 30, 2004, titled Animal Control Authority’s Findings and Decision on Dangerous Dog Classification of “Rusty” and “Bonita” Owned by Kenneth O’Keefe (Order). As set forth in the Order, the evidence and testimony showed that the dogs attacked an individual, Mr. Roe, barking, growling, and surrounding him. Rusty bit Mr. Roe’s arm causing bleeding and resulting in Mr. Roe having to go to the hospital. The dogs’ unprovoked behavior was observed by a Mr. Jones. Prior to October 12, 2004, the dogs behaved aggressively towards Mr. Lowe, another neighbor. On October 12, 2004, the dogs became aggressive when they saw Mr. Lowe through his home window. Prior to October 12, 2004, Mr. Lowe witnessed that the dogs attempted to attack an individual that escaped onto a neighbor’s car. Also, on October 12, 2004, another neighbor’s small dog was killed. Circumstantial evidence showed that Rusty and Bonita may have killed the dog. The hearing officer affirmed the finding that Rusty and Bonita met the criteria of a “dangerous animal” under sections 14-26(1) and (4), and that the dogs should be destroyed.
O’Keefe appealed that decision to County Court. The County Court, sitting in its appellate capacity, affirmed the Order finding that both dogs should be classified as dangerous and be destroyed. The findings set forth in the County Court’s order, Amended Order Affirming Finding of Animal Control Authority, entered May 17, 2006, mirror the findings entered by the hearing officer. However, the County Court did find that the injury inflicted upon Mr. Roe did not qualify as a “severe injury.” O’Keefe seeks review of the County Court decision.
Court, O’Keefe argues that the County Court erred in affirming the hearing
officer when two
Court finds that, to the extent O’Keefe is challenging the constitutionality of
the Pinellas County Code, such action must be commenced as an original
proceeding in Circuit Court.
The County’s Code is subject to
the same rules of construction as statutes.
See Rinker Materials Corp. v. City of
There are two Code sections pertinent to the issues raised. Section 14-65, titled “Dangerous animals,” as amended February 16, 1999, provides, in part:
(a) Within ten business days after receipt of notification that there is sufficient cause to classify the animal as dangerous pursuant to F.S. ch. 767, or this article, by animal services or after receipt of the decision of the animal control authority upholding the classification, or, in the case of an appeal to county court, within one business day after rendition of the order upholding the classification, the owner of the animal must surrender the animal for immediate destruction by animal services.
Section 14-65 goes on to describe the procedure to be used for animals previously determined to be dangerous.
Section 14-66, titled “Attack or bite by dangerous animal; severe injury; penalties; confiscation; destruction,” enacted July 28, 1998, states, in part:
(b) If an animal that has not been declared dangerous attacks and causes severe injury to or death of any human, the animal shall be immediately confiscated by animal services, placed in quarantine, if necessary, for the proper length of time or held for ten business days after the owner is given written notification pursuant to F.S. §§ 767.12, and this article, and thereafter destroyed in an expeditious and humane manner.
The other two classifications, set forth in (a) and (c), apply only to animals previously declared to be dangerous. O’Keefe argues that, if the County would have applied Section 14-66, the dogs would be spared destruction, since there was not a finding of severe injury, nor a previous declaration that the dogs were dangerous, and that the County is arbitrarily applying Section 14-26 and 14-65 to support its decision to destroy Rusty and Bonita.
The Court finds that section 14-65 and section 14-66 are not inherently inconsistent, nor that section 14-65 was arbitrarily applied. While each section provides a distinct classification scheme, they do not conflict. As this Court must defer to an agency’s interpretation of a statute it is charged with enforcing, unless contrary to law, the Court finds that the Amended Order must be affirmed (or certiorari relief denied). See Palm Beach, supra; Florida Dept. of Revenue, supra. Therefore, it is,
ORDERED AND ADJUDGED that the Amended Order Affirming Finding of Animal Control Authority is affirmed.
ORDERED in Chambers, at
DAVID A. DEMERS
Circuit Judge, Appellate Division
ANTHONY RONDOLINO PETER RAMSBERGER
Circuit Judge, Appellate Division Circuit Judge, Appellate Division
Copies furnished to:
Judge Dorothy Vaccaro
Robert G. Walker, Jr., Esquire
1421 Court Street, Suite F
Michelle Wallace, Assistant
315 Court Street
 Senior Judge Gerard J. O’Brien was sitting as a hearing officer in reviewing this matter.
 Section 14-26 sets forth definitions and defines “dangerous animal” to include an animal that: “(1) Has aggressively bitten, attacked or endangered or has inflicted severe injury on a human being on public or private property;” or, “(4) Has, when unprovoked, chased or approached a person upon the streets, sidewalks, or any public grounds in a menacing fashion or apparent attitude of attack, provided that such actions are attested to in a sworn statement by one or more persons and dutifully investigated by the appropriate authority.”