County declares 2 dogs ‘dangerous’ terrorizing hammock since 2017
The Flagler County commission voted unanimously and without comment Monday to approve an order declaring a pair of German Shepherds in the hammock “unsafe” and requiring the dog’s owner to follow rules severely restricting the freedom of the dogs. dogs. The dogs had been terrorizing the neighborhood, hurting other dogs and their owners since 2017. It’s the first time in seven years the commission has had to vote on such a dangerous dog case.
“These are not pleasant cases, but they are important. It’s a role you don’t play very often, but it’s a public safety issue,” Sean Moylan, the county’s assistant attorney, told commissioners before the issue.
Gary Schnayderman owns two German Shepherd dogs, Tim and Zev. On February 14, while Schnayderman was taking out the trash, the two dogs escaped from their home at 3 Flagship Court in the Hammock. They ran around the neighborhood, attacked Zelda, a sheltie dog, and endangered the dog’s owner, Susanna Sack. The attacks were unprovoked. Zelda was seriously injured.
“The wound in the back was a significant size, about the size of a grapefruit, where the skin was pulled away from the muscle,” said Lauren Kuzimski, a veterinarian at Flagler Animal Hospital. “There were also wounds under the skin with bruises on the muscles. The damage was severe enough that the skin had peeled away from the muscles on the sides of his body, leaving deep pockets between his skin and everything underneath. To repair the damage, Zelda had to sleep while her wounds were cleaned and stitched up. She had to have tubes inserted into her sides to help fight the infection so it didn’t stay in her body and instead ‘leak out’.
“Some of the skin on the dog’s back was lost and the rest had to be tightened, a drain put in to prevent infection or to allow it to drain,” Moylan said. The dogs also attacked Cody, a golden retriever, according to a report by Lonnie Groot, the hearing officer. This hearing took place on March 9. Statements from five other neighbors indicated that Schnayderman was “well aware of the dangerous and aggressive nature of Tim and Zev,” and had been warned of the danger they posed, Groot’s report said.
“During the investigation of this particular incident, it became apparent that there were numerous prior incidents that had never come to the attention of animal services, with one exception,” Moylan said. “This single exception was reported to animal services at the time, but there was insufficient evidence at the time to pursue a dangerous dog classification.” Evidence from previous incidents indicated that neighbors had to change their habits to avoid the area, for safety. One such incident mirrored Valentine’s Day mayhem: Schnayderman was taking out the trash, his dogs got away, attacked a dog belonging to a woman who fell, scratching his arms while trying to break up the fight . The injuries were not serious in this case.
“Cody had puncture wounds on his back and I was scraped and bleeding on my arms,” the woman wrote in an affidavit. “Neither Cody nor I needed anything more than cleaning up, but Cody had a lingering fear of all dogs, something I’ve been working on ever since.” She added: “I never reported the attack at the time as I am an animal lover and did not want the shepherds taken away and potentially euthanized. However, things have now changed. Before and since Cody’s attack, there have been other horrific encounters with these dogs and I’m sure you are getting communications from owners about them.
Schnayderman spoke to the commission. He acknowledged the attacks, “however, my dogs never attacked anyone at any time,” he said. (“It’s not proven by the evidence at all,” the hearing officer had said of Schnayderman’s qualification.) He disputed that he lacked the ability to control the two dogs in same time. Schnayderman accused some of the evidence presented to Groot at the hearing of being “fabricated”.
The evidence filed for the record again paints a very different picture. An Atlantic Place resident wrote in an affidavit of an incident that occurred in September 2019 when Schnayderman was walking his two dogs on Ocean Way Boulevard. “My 10-year-old son was skateboarding with my husband,” the woman wrote. Schnayderman’s dogs “immediately turned to Atlantic Place and started running towards my son and my husband. [Schnayderman] was knocked to the ground while holding the leashes and drugged about 10 yards away by his dogs. My husband ordered my son to rush into the house while [Schnayderman] shouted ‘stop making noise with your skateboard it’s driving my dogs crazy’ while being pulled[ed] on his stomach through the concrete.
“Mr. Schnayderman indicated that he believed others were intentionally walking towards him and Tim and Zev and that this was causing confrontations,” the hearing officer reported. “This point is not well understood as the streets, sidewalks and public areas are intended for use by the public in a way that is safe and secure for everyone. Tim and Zev’s conduct is contrary to that purpose. He added, “Flagler County has proven that Tim and Zev are dangerous dogs who inflicted serious injuries on Zekla and, when unprovoked, approached and chased. [a woman] on a street, sidewalk, public property and on their private property in a threatening manner and in an apparent attitude of attack. The woman wrote that she did not feel safe in her own neighborhood. The filing includes similar additional affidavits of Tim and Zev mutilating and biting other dogs – and their owners as they tried to defend their own animals.
The oldest complaint dates back to 2017, when the dogs charged at two people and slightly injured them. They weren’t on a leash. Schnayderman was on his cell phone, according to this affidavit. “We were terrified and yelled at the owner saying we had a leash law in Flagler County and what was he thinking letting them run free. He apologized and moved on,” one of the victims wrote.
Tim and Zev will not be euthanized. But Schnayderman will have to muzzle the dogs when they are out in public. When he walks the dogs, he will have to do it one at a time, as he was not deemed strong enough to control both dogs at the same time. “There was evidence on file that he was being dragged by the dogs,” Moylan said of the “large adult German Shepherds.” And on the property, they must be kept in an enclosure, with clear warnings. If the dogs attacked any animal or human again, the dogs would be euthanized and Schnayderman could face criminal charges.
The last time the county commission faced a dangerous dog case was in 2015, when a dog in the Eagle Rock Subdivision bit and seriously injured a child who was visiting a friend at the dog’s home. This case hinged on whether the castle doctrine applied: didn’t the dog have the right to attack what it perceived as a threat, in its own home? The county declared the dog dangerous. The dog’s owners appealed. In an administrative hearing, a judge concluded that the dog was in fact defending a territory and therefore could not be considered dangerous. But this conclusion was only a recommendation to the County Commission. The case had attracted a lot of attention by the time it was presented to the commissioners. In a 4-1 vote, the commission refused to remove the dangerous dog designation.
The case was just beginning. The dog’s owners appealed to county court and then to circuit court, where Circuit Judge Scott DuPont (later) ruled in favor of the owners, reversing the commission’s vote. The county appealed to the Fifth District Court of Appeals. This court dismissed the appeal. In the meantime, the county had agreed to settle the matter with the owners. The dangerous dog designation has been removed.
That is to say, Monday’s vote by the county commission may not be the last word: These cases have a way of taking their lives. The difference in signal in the case of the two dogs that the commission declared dangerous on Monday is that they were not in their own home, they had a history of aggression well known to neighbors and the owner of the dog, and they mutilated a dog and nearly attacked its owner on the victims’ property.