NEW PORT RICHEY, Fla. — The Florida Legislature is currently discussing bills to create a statewide registry for "dangerous dogs."
If passed, the Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services would require animal control to add dogs that have been deemed dangerous to a database, while also forcing their owners to get liability insurance.
According to Chris Meverden, owner of North Tampa Dog Training, it’s very rare to have a dog that can’t be rehabilitated from dangerous behavior like biting.
“We have to break the cycle of fear,” he said.
And training dogs to break that cycle is what he does best.
“I don't think that the problem of dog bites, fatalities and stuff like that is going to be solved by legislatures in Tallahassee,” he said.
According to Meverden, he doesn’t have a problem with the bill, he just hopes these dogs have the chance to redeem themselves with proper training.
“We have to kind of watch upon, you know, are we infringing upon people's rights and are we actually, you know, hurting, you know, the rescue and rehabilitation of these dogs versus, you know, really helping them?” he said.
According to the Senate bill, if a dog is declared dangerous, owners have to put them in a proper enclosure, get liability insurance of about $100,000, put permanent identification, like a tattoo or microchip, on the dog, and notify animal control if the dog is loose, sold or moving to a new address.
“Hopefully it just stirs, you know, responsible pet ownership and kind of says,’ Hey, I don't, you know, I don't want to end up on this list,’” Meverden said.
According to the CDC, each year more than 4 million people are bitten by dogs in the U.S.
Sen. Jay Collins, a Republican representing parts of Hillsborough County and the sponsor of the bill, discussed the potential registry during a recent committee meeting in January, which is being named the "Pam Rock Bill," in honor of a woman who was killed by five dogs in Putnam County.
Rock’s brother, Tom, spoke to the committee during this hearing, saying the bill would give owners tougher penalties to prevent violent attacks.
“This is sad,” he said. “What's worse is it's preventable. So, you can be on the good guy team and help us stop them. Hear the cries of the Florida victims and help us pass this legislation now.”
“Believe me when I tell you, it's not something I'd ever want to do to take away someone's dog rights or to grow government,” Collins said. “It is one of those areas that I am diametrically opposed to. That being said, you’ve listened to the stories. It’s real.”
The committee unanimously approved the bill, which included two new amendments that excluded police dogs and hunting dogs from the legislation.