Owner fights to save dog deemed threat by Palm Beach
By WILLIAM KELLY
Daily News Staff Writer
Thursday, July 03, 2008
The town has ordered a Brazilian Avenue man to get rid of his dog, or have it destroyed, after it mauled three small dogs as they were being walked in the neighborhood.
The dog's owner, Richard Lynn, of 165 Brazilian Ave., has appealed the order to the Town Council, which is scheduled to decide the matter at its meeting Tuesday. The meeting begins at 9:30 a.m. in Town Hall.
A town law requires dog owners to remove the animals from town or have them euthanized after the town declares them dangerous.
Lynn was notified by Palm Beach Police on June 16 that the department had classified his dog, a 50-pound German shepherd mix, as a threat to other animals.
The statute allows the town to make the designation if a dog attacks and causes severe injury to a person or domestic animal more than once.
"The town of Palm Beach Police Department has several documented incidents of Duke causing severe injury to another animal," Sgt. Curtis Krauel, the department's code enforcement manager, told Lynn in a June 20 letter.
The letter points out that the Palm Beach County animal control division also classified Duke as dangerous at a June 5 hearing. Animal control officers said the dog attacked and seriously injured three small dogs in separate incidents dating to March 2004. All three dogs underwent surgery for their wounds.
Neighborhood residents who attended the hearing said Duke also injured, but did not directly attack, two people trying to protect their dogs during the attacks.
Diane Saure, director of Palm Beach County Animal Care and Control, said at the hearing that Duke "is a vicious dog and should be put to sleep."
The animal control division seized Duke May 16, five days after he attacked a beagle-basset hound mix belonging to Vivian Dorris as they walked in the 100 block of Brazilian Avenue.
But the agency released Duke to Lynn a few days later, saying state law prevented it from destroying the animal because it had not been designated as vicious. State law does not allow the vicious declaration unless the animal has previously been declared dangerous, or unless it attacks and seriously injures a person, Saure said.
The dangerous designation enabled the county to impose numerous restrictions, however. Duke must be leashed and muzzled while being walked, and caged whenever he is in his owner's yard.
But several residents complained that the neighborhood would not be safe until Duke is gone.
Lynn, a surgeon who lives above Salon Margrit, has been unwilling to give up the dog. He has characterized all of the attacks as accidents, and said he agreed to pay all of the resulting veterinary bills. He also said he would refrain from walking the dog on Brazilian Avenue.
Lynn's lawyer, James Merola, told the town in a June 24 letter that Lynn would appeal. Merola said the town's law violates the county and state laws.
Dogs can't be destroyed unless they've been declared vicious or have attacked and seriously hurt a person, Merola wrote.
"That is obviously not the case with Duke," he wrote.
Town Attorney John Randolph said Wednesday, however, that towns are permitted to adopt laws that are more strict than state and county laws.
"The council was concerned that the county's code was not strict enough," Randolph said.
The council amended its animal control law last year to make it tougher after a Doberman pinchser belonging to a North Lake Way woman killed a bichon frisé being walked by a neighbor in January 2007.
The town sued the Doberman's owner, Trina Lane, after she refused to muzzle the dog. But, instead of going to trial, it reached a settlement in which the dog was required to wear a head collar, but not a muzzle.
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