Adventures With Animal Control

Mikey was so sick but he had his letter of rabies medical exemption and after reading our ridiculous county codes I realized that I was supposed to keep him confined in a structure or kennel at all times even though doing so was defined as animal cruelty under state and local laws. I was not going to participate in county mandated animal cruelty by keeping him locked up with no exercise. Due to his illness he had severe muscle degeneration and his recovery would be not be short. He needed exercise.

While many Florida county codes say

"such dog, cat, or ferret shall be confined in an enclosed building or a kennel at all times until a licensed veterinarian can safely vaccinate the dog, cat, or ferret."

the county I live in worded it a bit differently


The tag shall be attached to the collar of the animal and shall be worn at all times except:

When a licensed veterinarian orders, in writing, that the collar and tag of a dog or cat be removed for health reasons, the dog or cat shall be confined in an enclosed building or kennel at all times until a licensed veterinarian permits the collar and tag to be placed back on the dog or cat.

*So is going out in the yard to potty and exercise illegal and grounds for confiscation & impoundment?

The catch is that they won't issue a tag unless the pet is vaccinated. I called Animal Control in an effort to discuss this but I quickly found myself being verbally assaulted by an overzealous Animal Control officer. I was left with the impression that they would gladly kill Mikey if given any opportunity to confiscate him.

So, I wrote a letter to a county commissioner explaining the situation and what happened. He contacted the Director of Animal Control and I recieved a letter telling me that he would be happy to let me purchase a tag. He instructed me to come into his office and bring a copy of Mikey's letter of exemption and a check. He went on to say


"As the possibility of rabies is a public health issue we deal with each situation on a case by case basis. As Director of Animal Control it is up to my discretion to handle these cases as I deem neccesary."

"We are sorry for any inconvenience that this may cause but hope that you understand our situation relating to the health and safety of the citizens of the county."

*There are no written procedures for handling medically exempt dogs in this county.


Now I understand that he is an important little man with too much power and my deathly ill pup is supposed to be a threat to the community. I responded with a thank you letter and enclosed a copy of Mikey's letter of exemption and a check. I was not walking into to that disease pit and possibly exposing myself to airborne viruses that could be carried home to my immuno-compromised boy.

So, Mikey was legal for one year, yippee! When he did feel like playing for a few minutes he could legally go out in his yard.

Mikey was in the vet's office monthy, he was making progress but he still had a long way to go. The year went by quickly and then it was time to get him another tag. Here we go again. I called Animal Control and once again they refused to issue a tag. I was told that I am required to show proof of the rabies vaccination or I cannot purchase a tag. When I told the officer that Mikey couldn't be vaccinated due to his serious health condition her response was, "Yes?" It was as if she had no idea that vaccine manufacturers state that their products can be safely be administered to "healthy" animals and as if she was saying, "So, what's your point?" I explained to her that he is not a "healthy animal" and should not be vaccinated. She told me that I could not purchase a tag without having him vaccinated.

The county commisioner that so kindly helped us the previous year was no longer in office so I sent an email to another commissioner and our Senator with hope that something would be done. Dogs should not be kept locked up at all times with no exercise and it should not be this complicated to get a tag.

The commissioner's secretary responded to me and the Senator's aid.


"The Animal Control Department has experienced this situation in the past and does have a procedure in place. The pet owner needs to take their information (from the veterinarian) to the Animal Control Department. Please ask for the Director or please call before going to the department to request an appointment (he will be on vacation the week of July 18th). He will be glad to assist you and take care of this need."

"The Animal Control Department staff isn't authorized to do this; it requires authorization and approval from the Director. He indicates this is not a problem and he will gladly work to assist the pet owner."

I don't mean to appear ungrateful but ... he has a procedure in place? Why wasn't I made aware of this when I tried to get a tag last year? Animal Control is a government office so I must assume these "special procedures" are documented in writing. Why was I never offered a copy of them? Why do none of his officers know of their existence? I was furious. I felt like I was dealing with a little man on a big power trip. And why did he keep instructing me to come to his office and see him? We live in a modern age with a postal service, telephones, fax machines, e-mail and Skype. Why did I need to stand before him in his office? Did I need to be physically inspected by the head dog catcher in an effort to determine if I am a reponsible pet owner? And what if my physicaL appearance doesn't meet his expectations? Why doesn't he check his records and see how many times complaints have been filed against my dog? That should tell him all he needs to know about me because there has never been a complaint against my boy, not one.


The Director Of Animal Control (Lee) was interviewed by a reporter for the Orlando Sentinel.

When he was asked about cats, his response was,

"It's a terrible admission, but I have never been a tremendous cat person. But I think the ladies like 'em, so Lee needs to like 'em too."


Once again, I sent everything to him by mail.


Legal Issues