Stephanie Castro: Dog owner says her rights were violated trying to save her dogs from euthanasia

Duke and Princess saved by city "violating" law

PORT ST. LUCIE, Fla.  -- A Port St. Lucie woman has regained custody of her two dogs, Princess and Duke, after they were taken from her by Port St. Lucie Animal Control over the summer.

But now, questions remain surrounding why the dogs' owner, Stephanie Castro, wasn’t given a timely hearing, required by law, to contest their possible euthanasia.

The lack of a hearing ultimately contributed to her getting the dogs back.

But, the city hasn’t commented on why the hearing wasn’t properly scheduled.

Stephanie Castro was informed on August 25, 2015 that her dogs were going to be designated dangerous after a neighbor complained the dogs approached them in a “menacing fashion”.

To avoid having the dogs seized, Castro said she did not contest the dangerous designation.

The dogs were required to be supervised at all times outdoors, and unattended only if they were in a confined enclosure with a concrete foundation. They were also required to be muzzled anytime they were outside Castro’s residence.

On September 9, Animal Control said another neighbor reported the dogs were loose and charged at her and her husband.

Castro said the dogs were not loose and stated she had a witness to verify her claims.

Neighbors filed a report with their concerns.

On September 16, Castro was informed by police that her dogs would be confiscated and destroyed following the September 9 incident.

Castro filed a request to contest the euthanasia of her dogs in county court within the ten days of receiving notification from the city on September 18. A hearing was not scheduled until Oct. 26.

Castro was not given a hearing within 21 days of making a request to contest the euthanasia, as required by state law.

For that reason, the dogs were returned to Castro, and spared euthanasia.

In an order by Circuit Judge William Roby to release the dogs, he stated, “The City has not provided [Castro] with sufficient and material procedural and substantive due process as it has not complied with either its own ordinances or Florida Statutes as it related to notices and hearings as it relates to the dogs in question.”

WPTV has requested comment from Port St. Lucie leaders to explain why Castro was not given a timely hearing.

After several requests, the city has not addressed the case.

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