Tuesday, August 3, 2004
Carmel on the Case: Animal Control Controversy
Could citations issued by Miami-Dade Animal Control officers be null and void? Tonight, Seven News has learned the troubled Animal Services Department is in more trouble. This time, questions have surfaced whether the officers are properly certified. Investigative Reporter Carmel Cafiero is - on the case.
(WSVN) -- Miami-Dade Animal Control officers are responsible for enforcing county pet laws for everything from vaccinations to cruelty cases.
If the tickets they write are not paid, the county can put liens against homes.
An example of that power - the mob scene in 2002...When 66,000 pet owners were threatened with fines and or liens by animal services - if their dogs didn't have rabies vaccinations.
Problem was a lot of notices went to people who didn't deserve them.
Now 7-News has learned it is Miami-Dade that is being accused of violating the law by not having "certified" animal control officers as required by state law.
And that raises questions about the validity of tickets issued by those officers - for more than ten years.
Documents obtained by seven news show the Florida Animal Control Association spent more than a year trying to get the department to comply.
In a letter last February, the F.A.C.A Executive Director wrote, "This lack of certification potentially nullifies every citation issued by these individuals in your department since 1990 and could open your department to serious legal challenges".
Three months later - another letter - another warning. Citations..."Could easily be challenged as invalid, with 18 of your officers not permitted by law to write citations."
Pet Owner Ray Barcelo: "How can you have animals picked up one day and in less than 24 hours put to sleep? That's not right."
Earlier this year, Ray Barcelo says he came home to find his dogs gone and tickets on his door.
When he went to pick them up the next day - they had been euthanized.
Ray Barcelo: "Why? Nobody could give me an answer as to why."
Now Barcelo says he is outraged to learn the officer that picked up his pets may not have been properly certified.
He says he is considering legal action.
The certification issue is the latest development for a troubled department that has had major problems for decades...And most recently under the direction of the miami dade police department.
Animal Activist Marjorie Murphy: "They don't know what they're doing. They don't know how to handle animals."
Last June, the public had a chance to speak out about animal services in connection with an investigation by the Humane Society of the United States. Its report is due next month.
In the meantime, 17 animal control officers were given the test for state certification and the results are embarrassing. Only one person passed.
Of those who failed - one missed 20 out of 40 questions.
Try as we might, we could not get anyone from county government to be interviewed about this situation. The Police Department did e-mail a response. It's position - animal control officers do not have to be certified by the Florida Animal Control Association and citations issued in the past will not be affected. F.A.C.A disagrees and says this fight is far from over.
For more information, or if you have a story for Carmel:
Call her in Dade at 305-627-CLUE
Or in Broward at 954-921-CLUE