A Legal Challenge to Miami-Dade County Pit Bull Ban

Pit bullFlorida attorney, Rima C. Bardawil, has served notice on Miami-Dade County’s Animal Services Attorney, Dennis Kerbel, that she represents certain, as yet unnamed dog owners "who lost, were forced to move, had to give up their beloved pet, or are presently in fear of losing their pet and being wrongly fined."   

Bardawil states the Miami-Dade County pit bull ban, Miami-Dade County Ordinance 89-22, Section 5-17, "is improper and must be invalidated immediately.   The Ordinance is unconstitutional, implemented inconsistently, selectively and results in capricious and arbitrary results."

Bardawil notes, "The Ordinance states that it relies on American Kennel Club for American Staffordshire Terriers or Staffordshire Bull Terriers and United Kennel Club for American Pit Bull Terriers; however this claim is untrue.  First and foremost, these are copyrighted standards of which you have never been given permission to use and have actually been advised not to use them by the respective associations. 

"Secondly, even if some how you find a way to support your using these standards, you are NOT using their entire standard list.   The list of traits that Miami-Dade County uses is a summary of some, but not all traits listed by these organizations.  How can you properly determine what is "Substantially conform," when you are not even using the entire list of traits to go by?"

Bardawil continues, "Moreover, how can you determine what substantially conforms is?  Is it Fifty-One (51%) percent, Fifty Five (55%) Percent, Sixty-Five (65%) percent, or Seventy-Five (75%) percent within which you are measuring substantial to mean?   How can a citizen of Miami-Dade County determine whether they are in compliance with this law when the very law is unclear?"   

Bardawil summarizes, "[T]his Ordinance [is] wholly invalid on its face.  Clearly this ordinance is in direct violation of Miami-Dade County residents’ right to due process of law.   It is clear that since different people can interpret what is classified as a dog substantially complying as to what a Pit Bull is, then this ordinance is ‘void for vagueness.’

"Miami-Dade County’s Ordinance 89-22, improperly forces people of common intelligence to have to guess as to the meaning of the statute, and differ as to its interpretation.  A better case of a statute or ordinance being struck down as being void for vagueness could not have been created."

Bardawil points out, "[O]ver the years, Miami-Dade County has improperly killed countless dogs in violation of the very ordinance that you are claiming to go by.  Specifically, the ordinance at issue states in Section 5-17.6-Time for Compliance subsection (b)(2).  This section states that violation of section 5-17.6, may result in civil violation notice and (2) ‘Humane destruction of  the pit bull dog by order of a court of competent jurisdiction.  The County Manager or his designee may apply to the court for such order pursuant to this paragraph.’"  

"Miami-Dade county has wrongfully taken alleged pit bull dogs away from their owners to kill them without seeking court order or advising the owner that killing of their pet cannot be completed without court order.  As a result, Miami-Dade County has committed countless acts in violation of this ordinance and has deprived countless residents of their property without due process of law."

Bardawil demands "that Miami-Dade County CEASE AND DESIST at ONCE, its implementation of Ordinance No. 89-22 in its entirety, or otherwise face impending legal action."

Expect litigation to follow. The fight is on to overturn the longstanding Miami-Dade County pit bull ban.  A federal district court in American Dog Owners Ass’n v. Dade County, 728 F. Supp. 1533  (S.D. FL 1989) has rejected a challenge to the ordinance’s facial validity, claiming it was not too vague for people to understand what was prohibited. No court has ruled whether the ordinance is applied or enforced unconstitutionally. 

For more on breed bans, why they don’t work and what will work to make communities safer from irresponsible and criminal dog owners. 

You can help. Contact Miami-Dade County commissioners and urge them to repeal the pit bull ban.


11 thoughts on “A Legal Challenge to Miami-Dade County Pit Bull Ban”

  1. Although I will soon be working in Dade County for the US Federal Government, I am in the process of buying a house in Broward County, because I own an American Pitbull Terrier. I am banned from Dade County, like a criminal, because of my dog. SO Dade county loses out on my property taxes, and revenues will be spent in Broward. I will commute to Dade but I will not live there or spend money there.

  2. Alverez will not go by the rules set for our country he lets his crony’s break the LAW please call Patrick 786-277-1230

  3. So what happened??? Are they gonna over turn the ban? We work and live in America to have freedom, how can you tell someone what kind of dog they are allowed to own? Do you people ever watch the Dog Whisperer?? HELLO Presa Canario’s, why don’t you ban them to, they are about 20-30 lbs heavier then a pitbull and they are scary doggies too, you idiots. Maybe I will look at Miramar instead of Kendall, I don’t think I want to spend my hard earned money in a stupid county.

  4. My name is Jonathan Loftus and I am a resident of Broward County. I’m not sure if this is the proper area to address my concern and if it isn’t, I apologize. I work in Miami-Dade and plan to move there one day to be closer to work. I am also considering to adopt a pit bull from the Humane Society one day. As pit bulls are illegal in Miami-Dade County I obviously can’t do that at the moment. My reason for contacting you today is to share my objection to the laws in Miami-Dade County in regard to any dog labeled as a pit bull.

    To begin, the American Pit bull Terrier and other pit bull breeds have been in this country for over 100 years. During this time, they have earned a reputation as being excellent with children, even to the point of being nicknamed the Nanny Dog, a name still used for pit bulls today that few are aware of. This is demonstrated in the TV show The Little Rascals, a show that featured mainly young children where Petey the pup was played by a pit bull. Pit bulls were also featured on several World War I Propaganda posters. It was not until the 1980’s after several documented attacks that the pit bull earned the negative reputation that it has today. In bringing this slight history up I am attempting to point out that if this dog had the negative reputation that it has today, I don’t think it would have taken eighty something years to find out.

    I would also like to point out between 1979 and 1998 there have been about 350 fatalities related to dog attacks in the United States and 66 of those have been credited to pit bulls. Doing the math that is approximately 3 deaths a year by a pit bull. I’m not trying to sound cold hearted but that is not a substantial number. More people will probably die this year getting out of the shower. There are thousands of deaths each year attributed to firearms in this country, from both criminals and ignorant gun owners alike. We will probably lose over 66 lives (19 years of pit bull attributed deaths) in 24 hours or less because of firearms. Yet despite these numbers little to no action is taken against firearms. Wait a minute scratch that. Action is taken to increase the likelihood of shootings including but not limited to former President Bush’s plan to allow concealed weapons into national parks. The State of Arkansas wants to allow concealed weapons in church! The worst part is that the inevitable happens: a life is lost and the universal reaction is universal shock endless sobbing. I do not understand this reaction at all. People seem to want unlimited gun rights and then when the gun does the job its made to do and takes a life, nobody can figure out how or why it happened and is labeled as a tragedy. Public officials talk about public safety and try to push pit bulls into the spotlight as a public concern. They also try to push video games as a risk to the public because it supposedly teaches to kill. But when it comes to dealing with firearms directly, everyone seems to purposely look the other way. Is it because if you are in the GOP, the NRA is a strong financial contributor? Or are you just afraid that taking a stand on gun issues will isolate you from millions of potential voters? So what is the answer? Apparently it is to go after targets that overall have a very small impact in the overall safety of the public, pretending you’re making a difference and ignore all the major concerns because doing so would be personally inconvenient. I apologize if it seems I went off topic. The point I was trying to make is comparing the number of casualties contributed to by pit bulls and firearms and the amount of protest with each, which in my opinion is disturbing.

    To continue with the established numbers in my previous paragraph, I would like to add that of all the attacks attributed to pit bulls both fatal and nonfatal alike, the vast majority of those dogs were either mishandled or flat out abused. While pit bulls were indeed used for dog fighting in their early history, these dogs did not show any aggression towards people. Despite dog fighting being illegal now, unfortunately it is still very common in many parts of the U.S. and these dogs are treated less than humanely. According to your own webpage in which I obtained your email address, it states the penalty for owning any pit bull is $500 and having the dog removed. As previously stated almost every case I’ve seen of pit bulls attacking the dog was taught to be vicious. And most of the people who make them vicious are ignorant owners who want to act macho by showing off their big bad dog, or people who exploit the dog’s attributes for their own benefits including dog fighting or as guard dogs, usually guarding drugs and other illegal items. The problem is, these people are never held accountable for the damages that their dog commit, and the $500 fine is the equivalent of $5.00 to most of these people. That is a joke. And the dogs? Take them away have them killed while the owner is given a slap on the wrist and will find other dogs to exploit within a month if not less. Dog fighting came into the media strongly in 2007 when Michael Vick was exposed for dog fighting. Despite not being widely publicized, most of Vick’s dogs were successfully rehabilitated and have become family pets for many homes. I was hoping people would get a clue and finally start holding the owners at fault and not dogs but I was wrong.

    In the U.S. when a minor commit’s certain acts whether it be settled in a civil or criminal proceeding, the first person who gets fingers pointed at is the parents. It is supposedly said that minors cannot be held accountable for their actions because they are not mentally mature or something like that. What the hell is that? I can agree that while many minors do not reach full mental maturity until almost adulthood, however I can safely most kids over the age of 10 and probably younger know that committing certain acts will lead into trouble. When it comes to minor it seems everyone wants to use every possible excuse and explanation why that person shouldn’t be held accountable. I’m sorry to say but the vast majority of youth offenders seem to know that they are doing the wrong thing and either don’t care or feel the end justifies the means. These youths weren’t born yesterday; they may not be able to grab the full concept of their actions but most seem know in the back of their mind that it is wrong. There is a saying that ignorance is not a defense in a court of law. Well if you are under 18 it seems to be the perfect defense with a very high success rate. Video games seem to be a very popular scapegoat for youths today. The point is that animals and in this case pit bulls seem to be held to a standard that is impossible for an animal. Somehow when a pit bull or any animal for that matter attacks another animal or a person its magically supposed to know its doing wrong and refrain from attack. Many people under 18 have or will get into heated conflicts in their lives which will involve brutal attacks. What’s worse most of these conflicts will start over something stupid such as someone supposedly talking trash about someone else. We teach our kids not to resort to violence and many times they still do; many know violence should be a last resort yet its usually the first. The point is these people have a working brain and they know the consequences of their actions yet I don’t see anyone threatening to lock these kids up for a fight at school much less execute them for it. Yet with the dog one little snip, to the pound you go. Its common sense that a child raised in loving home with good morals and discipline will likely go down a positive road later in life. The same can be said for a child raised in the opposite circumstances; he/she will likely go down a negative route in life. Why can nobody see that with dogs its no different?! Having a dog is the equivalent of having a small child and the same rules apply: train and discipline the dog you probably won’t have major problems. Abuse and neglect the dog, you’re going to have a lot of problems. While this isn’t set in stone, most can agree it is pretty accurate. I cannot defend every single pit bull attack just like nobody can come up with a motive for every single murder a human does. In both cases the above circumstances can be ideal and yet the animal or a person snaps and attacks or kills someone. It goes to show that probably 90% of the time there are warning signs, etc but the other 10% of the time, there is none.

    It seems to me that pit bulls and other dog breeds are just the victim of breed profiling. Let me present a theoretical situation and solution. Miami-Dade County contains Liberty City a neighborhood well known for a high crime rate and high African American population. Theoretically you can go in there and arrest the majority of population without a warrant or any probable cause and you could probably clean up that whole area of crime. For the record it is official African Americans make up approximately 13% of the national population yet make up over 50% of the inmate population in this country. I am also a correctional officer at FCI Miami where 90% of the inmates are African American or Hispanic, coincidentally the two ethnic groups who abuse these animals the most. Pardon me but that is a pretty one sided ratio. So why do we not take this course of action? After all we seem to have no problem prosecuting pit bulls solely on the basis of breed. The reason this course of action is not taken for people is because it is racial profiling and more importantly it is unconstitutional. Theoretically can probably clean the streets by just arresting people who fit the image of a criminal. Not withstanding the obviously legal and unfair profiling issues, the success rate can be 99.9%. However all it takes is one case where someone is wrongly imprisoned and the whole thing comes into question. I know a dog’s life is not as valued as human life but that doesn’t mean its ok to profile any animal in this case pit bulls in a way that we as a society know would be unjust and biased towards a human.

    I would like take this time to thank the parties involved for reading what I had to say. I know there seems to be quite a lot here but injustice is something I just cannot stand, especially towards animals. The final thought I’d like to leave with you is this: in 1975 the movie Jaws entered our world. As a result of this movie, sharks have become the victim of the fear, ignorance, and stupidity of people around the world and millions have paid with their lives. It is only recently that people started to finally realize that most of what they thought about sharks was either highly exaggerated or flat out wrong. I blame the media for a great deal of the damage to pit bulls. Almost everyone knows that the media wants the story; not necessarily the facts and that many details on any story are either exaggerated or omitted. There are many dog experts who confirm that pit bulls are indeed great family pets with a responsible owner. Cesar Millan of The Dog Whisperer has well over 2 dozen dogs at least 5 are pit bulls living un caged, unchained with several other breeds of dogs. This is one of many examples that show that pit bulls can indeed be great pets. I do not deny that pit bulls are higher maintenance dogs and even people with the best intentions should think hard of whether they want the responsibility of this animal. There are some people who probably shouldn’t have pit bulls as pets, despite good intentions. There are also many people who shouldn’t be raising kids but we don’t get involved with that unless the situation becomes inhumane. The majority of pit bull attacks are from dogs were treated inhumanely and exploited for their strength and courage. Stop putting the blame on the dogs and start placing the blame on the people responsible as it should be. If things continue down the current path, all the so called aggressive dogs will be extinct (pit bulls, rottweilers, Doberman pinschers, etc). However the people who exploited all the previously mentioned breeds for their own greed, they will just find new breeds to exploit for their purposes and you will keep banning them as threats until the only dog breed left for them to exploit is a Chihuahua and soon that will be banned too. As extreme as this may sound, the way law applies to pit bulls and other dogs lead me to believe that this is indeed a very possible reality. I understand the safety of the people is a major concern. I understand that in some cases the only alternative is to put the animal down. However that should be used only as a last alternative when any chance of rehabilitation is probably futile. In human law we only decide to take the life of criminals; monsters who are among the worst of the worst of society, a title that no animal no matter how vicious can ever claim. Please seriously consider what I have spent a great deal of my time writing to you about and while I may not be able to change the whole world’s stance on this issue, I would love to think that I can change my neighboring county’s stance for the better, which for me would be a great victory. Do not let fear and ignorance triumph any longer.

  5. Previous challenges to the constitutionality of the Pit Bull Ordinance has failed. See, State v. Peters, 534 So. 2d 760 (Fla. 3d DCA 1988).

  6. I totally agree with you but I need a solution PLEASE!!!!! I have a 4 month old puppy

  7. I completely agree with Mr. Loftus. Honestly I’ve been one of the great majority of people who bought those infamous stories about pitbulls, and even feared them for long time. Now after what I’m going to share with you all, my concept about this breed has radically changed:

    Two weeks ago my brother and his wife rescued one of two 3-month puppies (a male and a female) from a house inhabited by drug dealers, and the male was given to me, because I just moved to an area in North Miami who has some rate of burglary and theft, and therefore me and my dad were needing a dog. So this pup came like an answered prayer.

    Little we knew that this lovely pup was actually a Pitbull Terrier (first I thought it was a Rat Terrier, but now my dad showed me pics of Pitbull puppies which had many feats as ours), and I can agree with all who are claiming to lift this ridiculous ban, because this little doggie (by now) is so sweet and playful, even my one year old niece loves him, and he loves her as well. He nips us sometimes, but we all know he does it for fun as part of the growing process. Obviously we are training him so he won’t be aggressive, but he may keep burglars and thieves away from our house.

    On the other hand, two weeks later I adopted a three-year old Papillon from a person who was moving out of state, and he is another story. He has been very aggressive with anyone who got close to me, specially men (my dad, my brother, etc). I’ll contact the former owner to ask her what his background has been, because I guess that maybe this Pap has been mistreated by a man at his house; he’s been nervous and uneasy most of the time. Now he’s fine, and little by little is getting along with my dad and the rest of my family because we’re giving him and the puppy lots of love and care. The Pap also bit our pup, because he felt surrounded and intimidated by the pup; now they’re getting along better. The reason I adopted the Papillon was because my dad had one back in our country, Peru, and he was the sweetest dog we’ve ever had; he also came abused from only God knows where, because my dad found him astray and sick with mange, but my dad took good care of him; and the dog was really, really sweet, so we fell in love with this breed.

    What is the meaning of my story? Well, that you shouldn’t judge any breed just because they had bad behaviors. Miami Dade County bans Pitbulls and Staffies, but other breeds are OK, without considering that aggression comes from any abused animal, no matter what breed it is. That’s very silly and ignorant coming from the biased media (around the world, not only in the US) and Miami-Dade County, banning and profiling certain dog breeds because of absurd statistics without considering the dog background of neglect and violence from their owners who only want to show off posing as “da bad boyz of da hood” (sic).

    We should do a class action or something like that to force MDC to change that law, so it will punish those who own and abuse dogs or have them for not-at-all profit purposes (dog fighting and drug dealing), and not taking the dog away to kill it just because “it looks like a Pitbull to me”.

    Could be better that the State of Florida ban the ownership of pythons, because they are ravaging native species because they’re let go in the wild by stupid people who don’t know how to take care of this non-native snake, just because the “coolness” of having a python is over. Also, ask Governor Crist to abolish that damned law of free right of gun possession, billed by Jeb Bush, who only caused innocent lives to be lost forever, either from a road rage, from a stupid junkie in a bad mood or just high, or just because, etc.

    I support the lifting of that ridiculous ban, and I hope we’ll see this happening very, very soon.

    Thanks for reading my testimony!

    (for obvious reasons I decline to put my identity, sorry!)

    PS: By the way, what do AKC and the American Pit Bull Terrier Association say about this?

  8. My parents were going to buy a $1.5 million vacation house in Miami, but the deal went south when my mom found out she couldn’t bring her Pitbull/German Shepherd mix with her. That’s potential property taxes lost because of this ban. Enough said?

  9. I too have chosen to reside in Broward County because of the ban on PitBulls. I own 2 (mother & son) and they are the most loving, faithful & funny dogs I have ever owned. I could not imagine being without them. I agree that I almost feel like a criminal that cannot live in Dade County because I happen to love a certain breed of dog. If people would only get to know these breeds they would find out that they are not the monsters that the media potrays them as. Any breed of dog is capable of inflicting harm on a person. I’m sure that there are many instances of different dog breeds attacking people or other animals that no one ever hears about. In fact, in the case of dog bites, rotties have a higher instance of this than pits do. Look it up. Well I’ve said my peace, and I will continue to live where I do not have to worry about some one coming and taking my beloved pets and killing them for no reason other than they happen to be a certain breed.

  10. I am sure that Miam Dade did stop collecting taxes because your parents reniged on thier purchase

  11. I think this ban is really uncomfortable for pitbull lovers that live in Miami Dade County. I can’t believe people can judge animals by their breed. Like really ? They make pitbulls seem so bad but when you get to have one they are such amazing & loving dogs. They dont deserve this ! So the government bans a specific breed from a county but will allow rapists, murderers, & pedophiles to live there. This makes so much sense ( exagerating. Lets stop this ! Help save pitbulls, there amazing 🙂

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