SAFE reaches settlement to spare Cyrus life

St. Johns County reached a settlement agreement yesterday afternoon with SAFE Animal Rescue to resolve a legal dispute regarding a Shih-Tzu canine named Cyrus.

After the settlement agreement is formally accepted by the Court, custody of Cyrus is expected to be relinquished from St. Johns County Animal Control to SAFE.

The parties to the case negotiated a solution and have agreed to a draft settlement agreement summarized below. Later this week the draft settlement agreement will be submitted for formal action by the Court.

• Upon execution of the settlement agreement and the Order by the Judge, the parties mutually agree Cyrus will be relinquished to SAFE and transported to an animal shelter or adoption agency located outside of St. Johns County
• The County Hearing Officer’s previous designation of “dangerous dog” shall remain in effect for a minimum of one year. After one year, the parties will mutually seek an expert opinion based on a referral from the University of Florida’s School of Veterinary Medicine, as to Cyrus’s suitability for general social interaction with adults and children. In order for Cyrus not to be considered dangerous, the expert’s opinion must be unequivocal, with respect to suitability to interact with adults and children. The cost of such opinion shall be borne by SAFE. Should the expert’s answer not be unequivocal, the designation of “dangerous dog” shall remain in effect and Cyrus may be re-evaluated after six months.
• SAFE agrees they will not transfer possession of Cyrus to any individual living within the geographical boundaries of St. Johns County
• SAFE agrees to provide the new owners of Cyrus with written notice of Cyrus’s history
• SAFE agrees to release all claims against St. Johns County, and St. Johns County agrees to release all claims against SAFE
• SAFE agrees to hold harmless St. Johns County for any damages caused by Cyrus after St. Johns County releases Cyrus to SAFE
• SAFE agrees they will file a Notice of Voluntary Dismissal of all claims in St. Johns County Case Number CC10-1382
• SAFE agrees it will not place canines in homes in St. Johns County until a procedural manual containing information necessary to protect those adopting shelter animals has been jointly developed and approved by SAFE and St. Johns County
• SAFE agrees to pay St. Johns County $230 for boarding costs incurred while boarding Cyrus

St. Johns County Administrator Michael Wanchick helped to negotiate and execute terms of the settlement on behalf of the County since “dangerous dog” designation actions do not come under the purview of the Board of County Commissioners; according to State statute and County ordinance.

“The primary function of County government is to protect the public health, safety and welfare of its residents,” Wanchick noted. “This settlement is consistent with that goal by recognizing and maintaining the enhanced State protections pertaining to a ‘dangerous dog’ designation until, in the opinion of an expert in animal behavior, the danger has been resolved.”

Wanchick added, “This settlement protects the welfare of St. Johns County taxpayers by ensuring another party has assumed the legal and financial liability for Cyrus’s future actions.”

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