ORANGE COUNTY, Fla. — 9 Investigates the court battle that has kept a dog in shelter isolation, without exercise or veterinary care, for nearly 15 months.
“Kenzo” was deemed a dangerous dog, biting two different people in the course of two years, triggering a Florida law that means a death sentence for the animal; but his owners appealed, thinking a decision would be quick.
Channel 9 Investigative Reporter Karla Ray looked into why the court case has stalled, and why shelter leaders say their hands are tied.
Inside a kennel at all times, short visits are the most interaction pit bull mix Kenzo gets inside Orange County Animal Services, after being put in isolation in the summer of 2021.
“No walks, no exercise, no grass, no bathing, no sunlight, lives and eats in his own surroundings,” Michelle DeFlorimonte said. She is Kenzo’s co-owner; her common-law husband is facing felony charges under Florida’s dangerous dog law, after Kenzo was able to bite two people in as many years.
The law meant Kenzo was set to be euthanized last July, before the couple launched the court process to appeal.
“Did I know that he would suffer like this? No, absolutely not. This is the definition of animal cruelty,” DeFlorimonte said, not talking about the conditions of the shelter, but the length of time it has taken to have a resolution.
On reviewing the court file, 9 Investigates found the Circuit Court denied a request from Kenzo’s owners to expedite a review of the dangerous dog determination, and hasn’t taken any action since, including on a motion to compel veterinary care that was filed in April.
“When I tell the story to others, they can’t believe that this dog has been in here for so long, without a decision,” DeFlorimonte said. “It just doesn’t make sense.”
Though to her, Kenzo is a beloved family member, in the eyes of the law he’s a danger to the public and to Animal Services staff.
OCAS’ manager told us in a statement: “The safety of our residents is of the utmost concern to Orange County Animal Services, an organization responsible for upholding local and state laws regarding animals. Animal Services has strictly adhered to the law in its handling of Kenzo’s case. As in any legal case, the family is afforded the opportunity to appeal the decision and the case is now in the circuit court awaiting decision. Animal Services looks forward to the case being brought to resolve for the relief of all parties involved.”
When asked by 9 Investigates how the couple could promise and guarantee that a third bite wouldn’t happen, DeFlorimonte mentioned a larger space in a new home for Kenzo to be away from others.
“There’s very few things that we would not do to get this animal back into our care,” DeFlorimonte said.
The couple is aware that in the end, Kenzo could be euthanized based on the law, regardless of how long the process takes.
We reached out to court administrators to ask about the delay and learned that appeals like this are assigned to a panel of judges. A proposed order is circulated among the members of the panel for approval or correction. After our inquiries about this case, we learned the order is expected sometime in the next few weeks.
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