By Adam Kaufman
February 12, 2018 9:00 a.m.
The City of Fernandina Beach and Nassau County both require that dogs on the beach must be under leash and under the control of a responsible person capable of controlling the dog.
On Friday afternoon February 9, 2018 Special Magistrate Miriam Hill, an independent hearing officer, heard the appeal of Thomas Groff, a city resident, who admittedly on January 13, let his blind five year old dog run unleashed on the beach at Beach Access 8, which he referred to as the “only place I can let him off the leash.”
Groff described the afternoon of the 13th “as a cold, windy day and there was no one else on the beach within 100 yards.” Groff did not challenge the underlying rationale of the ordinance, but has suggested that he had not heard of anyone having been issued such a citation, at least, “not until recently.”
Police Officer Jorge Luis Hernandez, who was “assigned to enforce the leash ordinance,” testified that on January 12 and 13 he issued nine (9) such citations.
Groff stated that he understood that “there are irresponsible owners out there.” Groff explained that the reason he was at the hearing “was to vent” and that he was, at the time, “perturbed” by the manner in which he was motioned over to Officer Hernandez’s vehicle. Officer Hernandez’s body camera recording was partially played at the hearing and was offered to be completely screened. Groff did not believe that was necessary.
What Groff appears to be seeking is a reduction or elimination of the fine associated with the citation and that he instead be issued a “warning.” Groff was required to pay a $75.00 appeal fee.
At the close of the hearing the Special Magistrate made reference to the applicable leash laws and apparently alluded to the October 30, 2017 attack by two unleashed pit bulls on a woman and an unleashed dog at Beach Access 28.
A decision by the Special Magistrate is expected during the week of February 12, 2018.
Editor’s Note: Adam Kaufman, a graduate of Northwestern University Pritzker School of Law, is a retired attorney, mediator, and arbitrator.” We thank Adam for his contributions to the Fernandina Observer.