Royal Palm Council Amends Rules Regarding Dangerous Dogs

The Royal Palm Beach Village Council unanimously approved amended regulations regarding dangerous and vicious dogs last week.

The change amended the village’s definitions on dangerous and vicious dogs and dog owners. The amended ordinance puts the village in compliance with updated Palm Beach County rules and regulations.

“These changes are to recognize and adopt the definitions established by Palm Beach County Animal Care & Control regarding owners, aggressive dogs, dangerous dogs and vicious dogs,” Code Enforcement Director Robert Hill said at the Thursday, Feb. 15 meeting. “The Animal Care & Control Division functions through Palm Beach County and performs our regulations within the village. We need to amend our ordinance to make it uniform with their regulations.”

Before the modifications, the Royal Palm Beach Village Code defined “dangerous dogs” and “vicious dogs” as those that attack, cause serious injury or otherwise endanger a human two times within a 12-month period, or that attack or cause serious injury or death to a domestic animal while off the owner’s property twice within that period.

“We will remove the incident timeline that now defines vicious and dangerous dogs because it has proved problematic and it didn’t serve our residents well,” Hill said.

Under the Palm Beach County definitions, which are now adopted into Royal Palm Beach Ordinance 970, a dog may be classified as “dangerous” under certain criteria, which include, but are not limited to, biting, attacking, endangering or severely injuring a human on public or private property one time; or more than once severely injuring or killing a domestic animal while off the owner’s property. A “vicious dog” is one that has previously been declared dangerous, and that attacks or bites a person or domestic animal again, without provocation.

These “dangerous dogs” and “vicious dogs” are prohibited within the village.

Recently, the village was informed of an incident involving a dog that attacked a domestic animal while off its owner’s property. The attacker had previously harmed another domestic animal, but the first attack occurred approximately 13 months before the second attack. Under the old code, the attacker was not in violation. Village staff reviewed the incident and decided that the code should be amended to remove the 12-month period requirement, as it does not meet the village’s intent in keeping dangerous dogs out of the community.

Regarding other changes in the code’s language, Hill explained them point by point.

Owner Definition: This was changed to include anyone who “has control or custody of a dog” because some people exercising one in public may claim they’re not the owner. It also makes parents or guardians responsible in the cases of minors who claim they own an animal. “We have defined an owner to fall in line with the Palm Beach County definition as, any person or entity who owns, keeps, harbors, possesses, or has control or custody of a dog,” Hill said.

Aggressive Dog Definition: This was changed to mean any dog that, “according to Palm Beach County records of the division, has severely injured or killed a domestic animal while off the owner’s property.” Also, the ordinance now incorporates the county’s requirements for “aggressive dogs” into the village code, such as muzzling, micro-chipping and prohibiting such animals from entering village dog parks and public parks.

Dangerous Dog Definition: This was amended to specify a dog that has received a final classification of “dangerous dog” by Palm Beach County, meaning one that has done at least one of these actions: bitten, attacked or inflicted severe injury on a human being; has more than once severely injured or killed a domestic animal while off the owner’s property; has been used or is trained for dogfighting; or has, when unprovoked, chased or approached a person in a menacing fashion or apparent attitude of attack. The action must be attested to in a sworn statement by one or more persons and have been investigated by Animal Care & Control.

Vicious Dog Definition: This was made to mean a dog that has received a final classification of “vicious dog” by Palm Beach County under its code, meaning it meets one of these criteria: a dog that had previously been declared dangerous, attacks or bites a person or a domestic animal without provocation; one that attacks and causes death to a human; or an unclassified dog that attacks and causes severe injury to a human based on the likelihood of future threat to public safety. However, it specifies that a dog shall not be declared vicious if the threat, injury or damage was sustained by a person who, at the time, was unlawfully on the property or was tormenting, abusing or assaulting the dog or its owners or a family member.

Both “dangerous” and “vicious” dogs are now specifically prohibited within the Village of Royal Palm Beach. Also, any designated “aggressive dog” now must comply with all “aggressive dog” requirements in the Palm Beach County code of ordinances while it is within the village, including implanting the dog with an electronic animal identification device, muzzling it when off the owner’s property and not bringing the dog to a dog park or public park within the village.