Math Sets Dog Free in Challenge to BSL

Update Aug. 2, 2009: There were 2 challenges on July 31 to confiscations under Miami-Dade County’s Pit Bull ban. Animal Services claimed both dogs, Baby Girl and Dixie, substantially conform to banned pit bull breeds.

In Ordinance No. 89-22, the county bans all dogs that "substantially conform" to American Kennel Club standards for American Staffordshire Terriers or Staffordshire Bull Terriers or United Kennel Club standards for American Pit Bull Terriers. 

Animal Services uses a checklist of characteristics to determine if a dog substantially conforms in appearance or breed to a pit bull type dog. 

The first case involved Carlos McLiberty and his dog, Baby Girl. Dr. Derek Wineburgh, a veterinarian with Hollywood Animal Hospital, testified about his evaluation of Baby Girl and the results of the MARS blood DNA test performed by his colleague, Dr. Ryan Llera. Dr. Llera also evaluated the dog.  Both veterinarians agreed Baby Girl was neither an American Pit Bull Terrier, Staffordshire Terrier nor a Staffordshire Bull Terrier (all 3 breeds are banned in Miami-Dade county).

Dr. Wineburgh said that the results from Baby Girl’s DNA test reveal she is bulldog, Whippet, Irish Terrier and Bull Terrier. Nowhere in her genetic makeup is any of the 3 banned breeds.

Despite this, the hearing officer decided the dog is a pit bull within the meaning of the ordinance. 

In the 2nd case Jomar Valdez challenged that the dog, Dixie, conformed to the checklist used by Animal Services to determine if a dog substantially conforms in appearance to one of the banned breeds. 

Dahlia Canes, founder and director of Miami Coalition Against BSL, illustrated through her testimony the many occasions on which Animal Services claimed a dog conformed to the checklist and when questioned, would agree the dog did not conform or meet the requirements to establish it was a pit bull type dog. 

One dog originally said to be a pit bull was a Mastiff, another a Labrador/ Boxer, yet another a Weimaraner mix and in another instance a Great Dane mix. 

dogCanes said the dogs were all evaluated as puppies though the ordinance states dogs must be over 4 months old before their breed is determined.

Had Canes and other rescuers not challenged the original findings, these dogs would have been euthanized simply because they were thought to be pit bulls.

Attorney Rima Bardawil, representing both McLiberty and Valdez, said it was critical that the Animal Services Investigator who issued the citation to Valdez, testified the dog must meet 70% of the checklist to "substantially conform" to a banned breed.

Dixie’s checklist indicated the investigator thought there were 11 conforming characteristics and 4 that were not. But in the end her math was wrong.

Bardawil explained, "She stated in her summary that the dogs ears stood up erect and ‘Did Not Conform.’ However, her checklist stated that the dog’s (Dixie’s) ears Did Conform. That was a clear contradiction with her typed summary and that one had to come into our column of ‘Does not Conform’ versus the column that it was in Does Conform.’" 

There were two other mistakes. Bardawil said, "One was on the Front Leg category, where she stated the legs ‘did conform’ on her checklist, yet in her detailed photo blow up she stated ‘did not conform.’  Finally, there was the back legs category, which she admitted she mislabeled the part of the legs she tagged, and therefore at least half of the rear legs did not conform.  Therefore, based on the 70% standard that too had to go into the ‘Does Not Conform’ column. 

"With all this, the 11-4 changed to 8-7.  Basic math alone will reveal that this is nowhere near 70%; in fact it is just a little over 53%. ….The [hearing officer]…had …no choice" but to free the dog. 


dogIn March, 2009, in a similar challenge a hearing officer refused to enforce the ban against the alleged pit bull dog, saying the ordinance was too vague. That case was instigated by Miami Coalition Against BSL, an organization dedicated to ending the Miami-Dade County pit bull ban.

Read Miami-Dade County: 2 Decades of BSL has Produced No Positive Results, by Karen Delise

Dahlia Canes, founder of Miami Coalition Against BSL, says her organization plans to continue to urge owners whose dogs are confiscated under this ban to raise legal challenges.

She said "This is an extremely important step towards the removal of BSL /Pit Ban in Miami-Dade County. [Public] support is most appreciated by the over 70,000 Pitties/Staffies and mixes … residing in Miami-Dade County. Remember… this is not only about Pit Bulls, as Breed Specific Legislation criminally discriminates against over 75 targeted breeds."

Canes continued, "This ridiculous and inhumane ordinance has been here since 1989 and it’s time to go! It is solely responsible for the confiscation and killing of thousands of innocent dogs. Family members, who are left with hefty fines …grieving over their loss… without a logical explanation!"

For more information please go to