A year ago, high school junior Theodora Beamer was attacked by a pit bull in her Orange County neighborhood. During the attack, she received multiple injuries, including a severed lip that required extensive plastic surgery to reattach.
The dog that attacked Beamer was never captured.
The dog’s owners quickly moved the animal from Orange County to the Miami-Dade area, where it’s now believed to be living out of sight. Local animal control officials have no way of tracking the animal once it was out of the region, leaving the possibility the same dog could attack again.
County and state leaders are taking action to ensure that never happens.
Orange County District 3 Commissioner Pete Clarke and District 47 State Representative Mike Miller met with Beamer on Wednesday to hear her story and to discuss possible actions that could be taken to track dangerous dogs in Florida.
A “dangerous dog” is defined as one that has attacked a human being, killed a domestic animal, or was trained for dog fighting. After an attack, the dog is impounded and an investigation is conducted. Investigators attempt to determine the circumstances surrounding the attack, the behavior of the dog, as well as decide the dog’s fate.
The dog may be destroyed humanely or classified as a dangerous dog. In the latter instance, the owner is required to register the dog and provide its address and information to animal control authorities.
If the dog attacks a second time, the owner is charged and the animal is slated to be destroyed, pending an appeal.
Right now, Florida counties have no way of communicating or sharing information on dangerous dogs or their history, should the owners relocate.
While possible legislation and regulations have yet to be specified, a push is on toward allowing local agencies to share information. One possible option is to extradite dogs determined to be dangerous back to their registered address.
“I think it’s important for these agencies to talk to each other,” Clarke said.
Aside from the attacks themselves, there are concerns over diseases (such as rabies) spreading from dogs held by negligent owners. The ultimate goal is to prevent attacks – like the one experienced by Beamer – from happening to others.
“We’re going to do what we can to protect the community,” Miller said. “I want to commend this young leader for her bravery and for coming forward.”