New laws in Hernando County enact stricter penalties for irresponsible pet owners

Posted at 4:44 PM, Mar 27, 2018
and last updated 2018-03-27 18:56:10-04

HERNANDO COUNTY, Fla. — New laws in Hernando County are stiffening the penalties for irresponsible pet owners. Back in January we showed you how a little horse was attacked by a neighbors' loose dogs, and a few days later a little dog was attacked and killed by loose dogs while being walked by a little girl and her grandmother. 

Dogs 'viciously' attack Hernando family's miniature horse

Several vicious dog attacks prompt Hernando County to look into better enforcement

"They just bit him and wouldn’t let go of him," said Georgina Gutierrez, the little dog's owner.

Animal control says their hands were tied when it came to punishing the vicious dog's owners.

"It's hard to explain to a victim who just lost their pet that yes, we were able to give them a $100 citation," said Matt Lillibridge, who oversees Animal Enforcement from the Hernando County Sheriff's Office. 

State law says a dog has to attack an animal on two separate occasions before anything drastic is done.

"I think the board recognized they needed to address that and make those fines capable of being larger amounts," said James Terry, Hernando County Animal Services Director. 

And they did. On Tuesday the Hernando County Board of Commissioners passed a list of stricter laws to hold irresponsible dog owners more accountable. 

Before, it took two attacks to deem a dog dangerous. Now after the first time a dog attacks another animal, it’s deemed aggressive and the owner could get a $1,000 fine. And if they don't pay the fine they could go to jail.

"I’m not saying that a $1000 citation would help them with the loss of their pet, but I do think it would make someone feel like they’ve been righted a little bit more so than a $100 citation," said Lillibridge. 

The new laws aren’t just for dog attacks. If a dog is a nuisance and gets loose a lot or the owner doesn’t pick up after their dog defecating on a neighbors property multiple times, the owner could be deemed an “irresponsible pet owner” which means they can’t get any new pets for three years.

County officials hopes these changes and the new extremely high restrictions and fees of owning a dangerous dog, will lesson the amount of dog attacks in the county.

"If they know its going to cost them, they’re more likely to be responsible owners and keep the animal contained on their own property," said Terry.