Council Gets Clarity on Dangerous Dogs

The mood at the Tuesday, March 7 Gulfport City Council meeting was subdued as council members and the audience listened to two county-level officials explain the dangerous dog workflow.

Since the 1970s, the county has been the legal authority in charge of providing animal control in Gulfport.

Pinellas County’s Director of Animal Services Doug Brightwell and Field Emergency Manager James McGill were invited by city staff to attend as the result of a February 7 council meeting that was filled with emotions. Residents at that time were upset that from December 31, 2015 through February 8, 2017, two dogs large enough to jump six-foot privacy fences threatened the safety of pets and people in Upton Street area of Gulfport.

After law enforcement officials at the local and county levels documented incidents, including the deaths of three pets, and an investigation was concluded, on February 8 animal control officials served the Gulfport owner with their “dangerous dog” decision with assistance from the local police department. The dogs were seized and by the afternoon of February 14, the owner surrendered custody. The next morning, the dogs were euthanized.

Brightwell explained the county recently amended their animal ordinance to comply with state law beginning April 1, 2017. The changes “essentially affect disreputable hobby breeders,” he said.

The county’s dangerous dog ordinance will now “be verbatim with the state,” he said. And, it contains many nuances that depend on each case.

When Mayor Sam Henderson asked what their recommendations were for the city regarding speedy animal control, especially in cases involving threatening dogs, Brightwell said, “Have local law enforcement officers report incidents to the county level so we can reconcile [each one] and build a case for the investigation.”

Another guest speaker, Ken Rush of Pinellas County’s Habitat for Humanity, talked about the current project being built on 9th Avenue S. in Gulfport.
“We’re excited to be back in Gulfport,” he said.

A second home site has been purchased and negotiations are in progress for a third, he said.

In other news, Henderson reminded council members and the audience that a citywide general election is on March 14 from 7 a.m. to 7 p.m. Voters will decide between six candidates for two council seats, representing Wards 2 and 4. Gulfport elections are city-wide: all residents may vote for candidates in any ward.

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