Who knows what was going through the mind of Brandie the Siberian husky on that fateful walk in early May. Perhaps she saw Jack, the toy poodle, as prey. Perhaps, as her owners maintain, she saw him as a threat. Whatever the trigger, the Brandie bit and killed the poodle, thus marking this particular husky as a "Dangerous Dog."
You see, Brandie and her family reside in Broward County, Florida. Unlike most of the state where a dog must commit two offenses before being deemed dangerous, Broward has a "one-strike, you're out" ordinance. The law states:
"A Dangerous Dog is a dog that has done the following:
- A dog that when unprovoked approaches a person in a menacing fashion or with an attack attitude.
- A dog that has killed or caused the death of a domestic animal in one incident, while off the owners or keepers property.
- Has aggressively bitten, attacked, endangered, killed or inflicted severe injury on a human being on public or private property.
- Has been used primarily or in part for the purpose of dog fighting"
Since the incident happened while Brandie was being walked, it falls into the second category. And when a dog in Broward County is labeled a "Dangerous Dog", she must by put down.
Brandie's owners and Jack's owners dispute exactly what happened.
Susie Salemeh, Jack's owner, says that Brandie lunged into the yard and killed Jack. Roshelle Singer, who was walking Brandie, counters that they never entered Salemeh's yard and that Jack attacked Brandie, who reacted in self defense.
Both owners are, very obviously, heartbroken. "We loved this little dog. He was a family member," Salemeh was quoted as saying in a May 13, 2010 article on JustNews.com.
Lon Lipsky, Brandie's owner, is likewise horrified at the prospect of his own beloved pet being put to death. He has started a campaign to have her removed from "death row" and to have the Broward County ordinance changed. Brandie now has a petition on Care2.com, a Facebook page and a Twitter page.
A recent court hearing officially sentenced Brandie to death, although her owners say they plan to appeal the decision. The dog's plight has received an outpouring of support from the canine community and Siberian husky fanciers in particular.
Those who know Siberian huskies will testify that they are, by nature, non-aggressive - especially towards humans. In fact, most guides for Siberian owners warn that, despite their vaguely wolf-like appearance, it would be a mistake to employ them as a guard dog. With their friendly nature they would greet a burgler as a newfound friend! These guides also warn of the Siberian's strong prey drive. Meaning that small animals such as rabbits, squirrels and even cats in some cases may look like potential meals. But this prey drive doesn't make them dangerous dogs.
One has to wonder what would happen if a dog killed somebody's pet hamster in Broward County. Would this qualify as a dog killing a "domestic animal"? Would that dog's owners be forced to put him down too?
And who is to decide what constitutes a dog "approaching another person in a menacing fashion"? Does this mean that if you are walking your dog and she excitedly pulls towards someone, your dog could be deemed dangerous?
The debate continues. And while it does so, Brandie the husky sits in the canine version of death row, unaware of her potential fate. Unaware that she, a notoriously friendly breed of dog, has been placed in the same category of a dog that has "aggressively bitten, attacked, endangered, killed or inflicted severe injury on a human being."