Pit bulls easy to buy although illegal in Miami-Dade County

Local 10's Jacey Birch sees how easy it is to get ahold of outlawed dog

HIALEAH GARDENS, Fla. – Adopting a new family member or purchasing a pet happens everyday in South Florida, but if you live in Miami-Dade County, there's one specific breed that you can't buy or rescue: a pit bull.

Local 10 Animal Advocate Jacey Birch went undercover to see how easy it is to get ahold of this outlawed dog, and also to find out if residents in the county care to abide by the "no pit bull" rules.

One phone call, one trip to Hialeah Gardens and $200 cash, a pit bull puppy named Boston was hers.

"I'm calling about the pit bull puppies," Birch said over the phone.

Only problem? Technically, Birch is not allowed to do any of this.

"It's a law that's been in effect since 1989 and the investigators are just out there enforcing the law," said Luis Salgado, of Miami-Dade Animal Services.

For 25 years, Miami-Dade County has outlawed pit bulls and Animal Services is in charge or enforcing that law.

"How hard is it to implement that ordinance with so many people in the county? It's difficult," said Salgado.

But is anybody really paying attention to the ordinance? Two and a half million people live in Miami-Dade County, but who knows how many have pit bulls?

"You get 4,000 animal cruelty calls a year, and how many investigators go out then to follow those calls? We are right now; there's five investigators actively throughout Miami-Dade County," said Salgado.

People are breeding, selling and buying pit bulls illegally in the county, but if you break the law and get caught, your dog could end up in a kennel, sitting in a cage at Miami-Dade Animal Services.

People have 48 hours to get the dog out of the county and those who don't face a $500 citation. Finally, the dog can be confiscated.

Enrique De Moya has been fined $10,000 because one of his tenants kept a pit on his property.

"I don't think it's fair. I think everybody should be able to own a pit bull," said De Moya. "The other is a black dog bearing the resemblance of a pit bull and I didn't even know it was a pit bull."

De Moya can't comprehend a breed being illegal based on an address.

"Just Dade County? Why? The dogs here in Dade County, there's some type of air or something, something happening that they're going wild?" asked De Moya. "Too many pit bulls? It doesn't make any sense and they know it doesn't make any sense, everybody does. It's not just me, it's crazy!"

Everybody might not agree, but the two people who sold Birch the pit bull may. When they sold her Boston, they told her "nobody cares" about the pit bull law when Birch told them she lives in the county.

Birch was also told to just call her new dog a mixed breed if she was ever questioned.

Birch crossed county lines and took Boston to the Humane Society of Broward County. There, Boston was checked out, given his shots and a micro-chip, and was legally put up for adoption.

But Boston is lucky and now legit. Every other pit bull owner living in Miami-Dade has to ask themselves this question:

"Are they going to get caught by Miami-Dade, where they're either going to end up at a shelter or end up euthanized?" asked Cherie Wachter, of HSBC.

Boston was adopted two days after Local 10 brought him to HSBC. He currently lives in Boca Raton, which is legal since there's no pit bull ordinance in Palm Beach County.

Miami-Dade Animal Services can determine whether a dog is a legitimate pit bull or a mixed breed by looking at the dog, with no DNA testing, which can create possible legal issues.

About the Author:

Jacey Birch anchors Local 10 News Mornings each weekday from 4:30 a.m. to 7 a.m. She is also proud to be the animal advocate for Local 10's investigative team.