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September 29, 2010

Dogs from Dania Beach Still Need Homes

This was last week; most of the dogs still haven't been placed: some black Lab mixes, shepherd mixes. If you want to see the photos, please e-mail pets@miamiherald.com and I'll forward.

You've probably heard the expression: The road to hell is paved with good intentions. This is Exhibit A. Well...Mr. Dobson wanted to save these pups - a decidedly good intention- but didn't play by the rules, now the dogs are in jeopardy. It's tempting to believe that if the cause is righteous, the rules don't apply...but tell that to Code Enforcement.  

Doggone dilemma: pets or jail

A man faces jail time following a rarely used tack of filing criminal charges against a homeowner for civil violations.

BY JAMES H. BURNETT III

jburnett@MiamiHerald.com

A Dania Beach man with too many dogs has a choice: Get rid of six of them or go to jail.

Joe Dobson, 48, was convicted Wednesday after pleading guilty to three misdemeanors: keeping more than three dogs in his Dania Beach Heights home; allowing garbage and litter to pile up on the property; and allowing the dogs to become a nuisance through their habitual barking.

Dobson's guilty plea comes with two consecutive 60-day jail sentences. But the terms of the plea agreement allow Dobson to stay out of jail if he removes at least six of his nine dogs and cleans up his property to the satisfaction of Dania Beach code enforcement officials.

If he fails to comply, Dobson will be placed in the Broward County Jail for 120 days, Circuit Court Judge Eric Beller told him.

Dobson remains on the hook for more than $90,000 in civil fines accumulated over more than five years for code citations alleging his home and property are so poorly maintained they are a nuisance.

Upon his arrest in July, Dobson became something of a legal test case, with city officials in neighboring communities like Hollywood watching to see if Dania Beach prevailed in this rarely used tack of filing a criminal lawsuit against a homeowner for civil violations.

At the time, City Attorney Tim Ryan acknowledged that typically in cases of code violations, tickets and fines are issued and resolutions negotiated to give the homeowner time to come into compliance.

But Dobson's failure to remove some dogs from his home and clean up after them over an extended period of time forced the city to up the ante, Ryan said of his arrest.

Neighbors acknowledged they believe Dobson meant well in rescuing stray and needy dogs, but said he seemed overwhelmed by the responsibility to care for them.

One neighbor, Todd Clayton, said he was bitten by one of Dobson's dogs last spring, when the animal escaped Dobson's fenced yard and wandered into Clayton's.

Lisa Duke, president of the Dania Beach Heights Civic Association, said Wednesday she was satisfied with the terms of the plea deal if Dobson finally complies

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