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Community Voices: Not such a ‘dog-friendly’ city




Photo: Viktor Hanacek/Picjumbo.

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St. Pete was just voted one of the dog-friendliest cities in the U.S. This “honor” is a disgrace. While millennials take their pups to dog bars and dog beaches, other dogs endure unspeakable acts of cruelty in this city every day. In the heart of this “dog-friendly” city, and in walking distance from luxury apartments, dogfighting is an uncomfortable and yet visible reality.

Residents and members of neighborhood associations who witness clear signs of dogfighting activities alert local authorities, only to be told that there is nothing that can be done, unless somebody calls 911 during an active fight and police are called at that same moment.

Clear signs of dogfighting activities are hoarding situations of pitbulls kept in cages and chained up in the backyard of single family residences in neighborhoods next to Tropicana Field. Even though those are clear violations of several of St Pete laws and ordinances, Animal Services says there is nothing they can do but to stop by and “ask” the owner to conform to the laws and respond to noncompliance with a written citation and a fine (which they have no problem paying, given the large amounts of money dogfighting generates). While they assure they are “aware of the situation,” nothing meaningful is being done.

A brief Google search brings horrifying information on the prevalence of dogfighting in St. Pete. Dogfighting is not hidden in this “dog-friendly” city. Social media provides an active platform for “fans” to communicate and organize dogfights. Dogs are kept in residential areas, close to schools, along school bus routes, without much effort to even hide them. We are teaching children growing up in our neighborhoods that this is normal and acceptable. The only thing Animal Services apparently can do is to stop at those houses, after residents alert them, and “ask” for code compliance. Needless to say, they might as well do nothing at all.

Please read this message as a cry for help from these voiceless dogs. Their lives are worth as much as the designer breeds visiting our parks, bars and beaches. On the occasion of St.  Pete being voted one of the most dog-friendliest cities in the U.S., please draw attention to the many dogs enduring daily acts of cruelty in this city without much intervention from authorities.

Given the reality of many St. Pete pit bulls and of other small breeds who perish in anguish every day, St. Pete needs to rescind this “honor” until resources to stop dogfighting are mobilized and something meaningful and forceful is done to eradicate this from our city.

Accepting the title of most dog-friendly city is nothing more than an additional slap in the face, and a willful and cruel negation of the ongoing unspeakable suffering of countless St. Pete dogs.

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    Shelle Berk

    August 22, 2022at8:48 am

    How can citizens help to end this?

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    August 22, 2022at10:51 am

    Last week I drove through the neighborhood directly across from Bayvista Fundamental Elementary. I typically drive through this neighborhood to park my car and walk across the street to pick up my child from this school. As I was driving, I noticed a pitbull mix pup roaming the street, I slowly stopped and he ran right up to the car and just sat there, wagging his tail. It was obvious this was a fighting dog. Thick heavy collar around his neck, wounds all over the body that were healing. I took my chances and got out of the car. This dog was so friendly and just kept nudging me to show him affection. I couldn’t not leave this dog in the street. I called Pinellas county animal services and we made arrangements to meet at my house for the dog to be picked up. This pup did so well in his interactions with me and my child that I thought it would be okay to introduce him to my pup while we were waiting for animal services to come (yes, very very stupid mistake). As I held onto this stray’s thick collar I allowed my dog to come out. The two dogs briefly sniffed each other and this stray did this for about 3 to 4 seconds and immediately went into to kill mode. Fortunately my dog being submissive and docile coward and I was able to push him back into the house as I held onto this strays collar. No one was hurt. I put the dog in a crate outside until animal services arrived. The gentleman that came and picked him up said the thick heavy color was not a good sign, and based on the way the dog looked, the healing wounds, and aggression toward my dog, that this pitbull mix was more than likely a bait dog. It was obvious that this dog was trained to be a weapon. The next day I called animal services to see how the dog was doing because besides the aggression he displayed toward my dog, he was so kind and affectionate with me and I thought to myself “wow, what a sweet dog, besides his wounds he is a really beautiful looking dog!” Animal services informed me that the dog was chipped and the owner came to pick him up! I was so upset. I said to the woman over the phone “the owner picked him up?! That dog was clearly an abused dog, how can it go back to his owner?! Is there no protocols for this when you find a dog in that condition to verify if he is returning to a safe home environment?!” The response was “No there is no protocols for that, ma’am if the owner can prove it is their dog then legally we have to give the dog back.” I don’t know if it’s the lack of funds or there is just not enough employees to do this kind of work or maybe both, but I agree with your sentiments. I was born and raised in this city and I wouldn’t want to live anywhere else but Saint Pete, you can do better.

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    August 22, 2022at6:03 pm

    I agree completely. I couldn’t have said it better myself. The cities and counties need to make better laws to protect these poor dogs.

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    August 22, 2022at7:13 pm

    Gulfport is much more deserving of this title. There are dogs everywhere there, friendly and well cared for.
    For such a dog friendly city, as St Petersburg is supposed to be, do you know how hard it is to rent with two dogs? And three cats?
    I was recently widowed and my mother also passed.
    I took my late husband and mother’s pets with me when I moved.

    Please don’t give me that we’re so dog friendly.

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    August 23, 2022at10:56 am

    Couldn’t agree more. I live on the south side of St Pete & have caught or have tried to catch numerous stray/loose dogs.
    When the city was awarded $30,000 because of it pet friendly status I called to inquire what the money was being used for. I was disgusted when I heard that it was really just going to make more niceties for the well to do people and their dogs. Never mind all of the horrific suffering of the majority of the dogs in the city. I have spoken time and again to many people at animal services and they tell me their hands are tied. That unless Florida laws are changed dogs are basically property and there are very minimal standards of care for them.
    Animal services doesn’t even respond to calls on the weekends. End of and despite what they say I have always been told by the police department that they cannot come out to assist with a stray dog. I don’t know how much enforcement there is of tethered dogs, despite the ordinance and Pinellas County against tethering. It is shameful. Florida has gotcha and backyard breeding and change the laws to stop the overwhelming suffering of these innocent animals.

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    Maya Thomas

    August 23, 2022at3:39 pm

    I’m not a dog fan as to say! Dogs are not people, they are animals. People need to not allow their dogs in grocery stores and restaurants.Keep your animals in animal places, period. I cannot rake or mow my lawn with out seeing dog waste in my yard. I have family and friends that work in grocery stores and the stories they tell sickens me. KEEP DOGS IN DOG PLACES

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    August 23, 2022at4:21 pm

    We should all contact our city council representatives and insist that the money is used to aid abused and neglected dogs. We should also insist that they pass some better laws to protect them. Maybe they could start a dog fighting task force.

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    August 23, 2022at7:15 pm

    Is it city, county, or state regulations (or lack thereof) that keep Animal Control and/or the police from investigating and pursuing charges against those engaged in this awful crime?

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    August 25, 2022at9:23 am

    No use those resources for more affordable housing.. damn the dogs.

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    Brad Gardner

    September 26, 2022at3:41 pm

    Forfeiture laws. If you are found harboring dog fights on your property or have dogs in violation of dog fighting laws, you forfeit your property to the city. The problem will disappear pretty quick.

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