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Palm Coast Friday, Aug. 17, 2018 2 months ago

Two dogs previously deemed dangerous now involved in new incidents

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Muneco and Cooper, declared dangerous in unrelated cases, are now involved in new ones.
by: Jonathan Simmons News Editor

Two dogs that had previously been declared dangerous by the city of Palm Coast in unrelated cases are now involved in new animal control cases over incidents that happened less than a week apart.

The first dog, a pit bull mix named Muneco, was declared dangerous — and ordered by a hearing officer to be killed — after a Dec. 29, 2016 incident in which the dog, while being walked, jumped up at a 69-year-old woman and put his paws and face on her arm.

It wasn't clear if the dog had bitten the woman or simply scratched her, but the resulting wound required 44 stitches.

Neither the city's animal control officers nor the victim, who said she thought the incident was a "freak accident," wanted the dog put down, but the hearing officer in the case believed city ordinance mandated the dog's destruction and also believed that the dog's conduct was "aggressive" and warranted the dog's destruction.

That triggered a circuit court appeal by owner Elen Puerta, and Circuit Judge Scott DuPont found that Muneco was dangerous but wrote, "The court finds that all of the evidence supports the finding that Muneco was playing and that the incident was a 'freak accident.'" 

So Muneco was recorded as dangerous but released back to his family. 

Now he's involved in another incident — again involving him jumping up, again perhaps playfully, at a stranger. 

The latest incident happened Aug. 11.

Two women who were going door to door for their church arrived at Puerta's house on Botany Lane. The owner "cracked" the door open, stubbed her toe on the door, and the un-muzzled dog slipped out, according to a city animal control officer's summary of incident and a video provided by the owner's family. 

One of the women bent down toward the dog, said "Hi" and was "head-butted" by the dog as it jumped up, its muzzle striking her in the chin. 

"The dog got out and jumped up and hit her in the mouth and she needed five stitches," Palm Coast Code Enforcement Technician Judi Flammer wrote in an email. "She doesn't think that the dog was aggressive; she thinks it was just trying to play."

An Animal Control officer, Eva Rodriguez, wrote in a report that it was not clear if one of the dog's teeth made contact.

Animal Control officer Heather Priestap wrote in an email to another city staff member that the victim "seems to be on the fence, for example she says she didn't think he was being aggressive with her but what if it had been a child or a smaller person etc. She did mention that it is definitely the owner who does not have control over the animal. The dog has no training. Etc."

The second dog, a hound mix named Cooper, was declared dangerous after a bite in Port Orange and was then brought to Palm Coast where it bit a carpet cleaner who'd been hired to work at the home of the owner,  Dottye Benton.

A city hearing officer ordered the dog put down, in line with Florida law that requires that a dog that had previously been declared dangerous be euthanized if it bites again.

Benton has been appealing to Circuit Court and has pressed city officials to allow the dog to be transferred to a western Florida rescue ranch whose owner had offered to take Cooper.

Meanwhile, the dog has been held at the Humane Society, and it bit someone there on Aug. 16, according to Palm Coast government spokeswoman Cindi Lane. 

Flagler Humane Society Director Amy Carotenuto said the victim, a new Humane Society staff member, was bitten on the hip and is doing OK.

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