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Enjoinment from Owning Animals in Florida

What happens with an Animal Abuse Investigator for the Hillsborough County Animal Control, or an attorney for the Office of the County Attorney files a petition for enjoinment that seeks to prohibit a person from owning an animal pursuant to Section 828.073, Florida Statutes?

You have a right to be represented by an attorney at the hearing. The attorneys at Sammis Law Firm can help you explain to the court why the petition for enjoinment was inadequate on its face, why the allegations are false or exaggerated, or other reasons why the request to enjoin your right to have custody of an animal or pet should be denied.

In Hillsborough County, FL, the Animal Control Division of Hillsborough County, FL, files petitions for enjoinment pursuant to Section 828.073, Florida Statutes. The petitions seek to enjoin an individual from owning animals within Hillsborough County. If the petition is granted, then your name will be added to a public database showing a list of people who have lost their right to own an animal in this county.

Most petitions are filed after an animal cruelty investigation conducted by Hillsborough County Animal Control. When an Animal Control Investigator or Animal Control Officer investigates allegations of animal abuse or cruelty, they might decide to file a petition to enjoin. 

As a result of the investigation, an Animal Control Investigator might attend the civil workup of an injured animal by a veterinarian at the Hillsborough County Pet Resource Center. The animal’s injuries are often photographed by the veterinarian during the civil workup.

These cases sometimes involve contact with the Pet Retention Team from Hillsborough County Pet Resource Center who provides resources including free neutering, food, bedding, and cages. Prior to the hearing, the petitioner might file an exhibit and witness list.

At the hearing, the petitioner will often request that the court award the Hillsborough County Pet Resource Center the costs associated with caring for the above-described animal(s), and permanently enjoin Respondent from owning, harboring, or otherwise caring for any animal(s), as defined by Section 828.02, Florida Statutes.

Attorney for Petition to Enjoin Owning Animals in Florida

If you were served with a petition for enjoinment that seeks a court order to prohibit you from owning animals in Hillsborough County, or the surrounding counties in Florida, then contact our office.

The attorneys at Sammis Law Firm represent respondents in enjoinment cases throughout Hillsborough County’s Thirteenth Judicial Circuit in Division T for hearings concerning the right to own or possess animals at pets. 

Related provisions to enjoin include:

  • Section 828.29 prohibits dogs and cats from being transported or offered for sale unless certain requirements are met. Section 828.29(14) provides: “The state attorney may bring an action to enjoin any violator of this section or s. 828.12 or s. 828.13 from being a pet dealer.”
  • Section 828.058 regulates the euthanasia of dogs and cats. Section 828.058(5) provides: “The state attorney may bring an action to enjoin any violation of this act.”

Although we are selective in the cases we take, we also represent clients accused of crimes involving animal abuse, neglect, or cruelty.

Call 813-250-0500.


Florida Statute Section 828.073 – Animals Found in Distress

Florida Statute Section 828.073 addresses options when an animal is found in distress. The purpose of the statue is to provide a way for neglected or mistreated animals to either be:

  • “Removed from its present custody, or
  • Made the subject of an order to provide care, issued to its owner by the county court, any law enforcement officer, any animal control officer certified pursuant to s. 828.27, or any agent of any county or of any society or association for the prevention of cruelty to animals appointed under s. 828.03, and protected and disposed of appropriately and humanely.”

The statute allows law enforcement officers or animal control officers to take lawfully take custody of any animal found neglected or cruelly treated by removing the animal from its present location. The officer must then file a petition seeking relief under Section 828.073 in the county in which the animal is seized or an order to provide care is issued. 

Within 30 days after the petition to enjoin is filed, the court must schedule and commence a hearing on the petition to determine whether the owner, if known, is able to adequately provide for the animal and is fit to have custody of the animal. Within 60 days after the hearing is commenced, the hearing shall be concluded and a court order must be entered. 

Section 828.073 does not necessarily require court action for taking custody and properly disposing of stray or abandoned animals as lawfully performed by animal control agents.

The law enforcement officer or the animal control officer who takes action under Section 828.073 must serve a written notice, at least 3 days before the scheduled hearing upon the owner of the animal, if he or she is known and is residing in the county where the animal was taken. 


Who Cares for the Animal During an Enjoinment Case?

The law enforcement officer or animal control officer must provide for the animal until either:

  • “The owner is adjudged by the court to be able to adequately provide for, and have custody of, the animal, in which case the animal shall be returned to the owner upon payment by the owner for the care and provision for the animal while in the agent’s or officer’s custody; or
  • The animal is turned over to the officer or agent pursuant to paragraph (c) and humanely disposed of.”

If the court determines that the owner is able to provide adequately for, and have custody of, the animal, the order shall provide that the animal in the possession of the officer or agent be claimed and removed by the owner within seven (7) days after the date of the order.


Court Orders in Animal Enjoinment Cases in Florida

If the court orders that the owner of the animal is unable or unfit to adequately provide for the animal, then the court may:

  • “Order that the current owner have no further custody of the animal and that the animal be sold by the sheriff at public auction or remanded to the custody of the Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals, the Humane Society, the county, the municipality with animal control officers certified pursuant to s. 828.27, or any agency or person the judge deems appropriate to be disposed of as the agency or person sees fit; or
  • Order that the animal be destroyed or remanded directly to the custody of the Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals, the Humane Society, the county, the municipality with animal control officers certified pursuant to s. 828.27, or any agency or person the judge deems appropriate to be disposed of as the agency or person sees fit.”

Additionally, the court, upon proof of costs incurred by the officer or agent, may require that the owner pays for the care of the animal while in the custody of the officer or agent. 

The court may order other animals that are in the custody of the owner and that were not seized by the officer or agent to be turned over to the officer or agent if the court determines that the owner is unable or unfit to adequately provide for the animals. The court may enjoin the owner’s further possession or custody of other animals.


Evidence Related to a Person’s Fitness to Have Custody of an Animal

When determining the person’s fitness to have custody of an animal, the court may consider, among other matters:

  • Testimony from the agent or officer who seized the animal and other witnesses as to the condition of the animal when seized and as to the conditions under which the animal was kept.
  • Testimony and evidence as to the veterinary care provided to the animal.
  • Testimony and evidence as to the type and amount of care provided to the animal.
  • Expert testimony as to the community standards for proper and reasonable care of the same type of animal.
  • Testimony from any witnesses as to prior treatment or condition of this or other animals in the same custody.
  • The owner’s past record of judgments pursuant to this chapter.
  • Any conviction entered pursuant to applicable statutes prohibiting cruelty to animals.
  • Other evidence the court considers to be material or relevant.”

At the hearing on the petition to enjoin another person from having custody of an animal, if the evidence indicates a lack of proper and reasonable care of the animal, then the burden is on the owner to demonstrate by clear and convincing evidence that he or she is able and fit to have custody of and adequately provide for the animal.


Additional Resources

Search the Enjoined List for Hillsborough County – Hillsborough County maintains a public database with a list of people who are enjoined from owning or possessing an animal in Hillsborough County, FL. The website explains that enjoinment is a civil process within the legal system that allows attorneys for Hillsborough County to file a petition for enjoinment on behalf of Animal Control request that an individual not be allowed to own or possess animals in this jurisdiction of the county for a specific period of time, or risk violation of a court order. The petition for enjoinment is intended to remove the privilege of animal ownership on a temporary or permanent basis from individuals who have been deemed unable or unfit to care for their animals after reports of animal neglect or cruelty.


This article was last updated on Friday, June 24, 2022.

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