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As Quarantine Costs Reach $5,000, Dangerous Dog Cooper Bites 3rd Victim–and Owner Attempts Hush-Up

| August 24, 2018

Cooper the dog has drawn a following from advocates who'd rather see the dog sent to a shelter for dangerous dogs on the state's west coast. They demonstrated on his behalf during Flagler Beach's July 4 parade. Click on the image for larger view. (© FlaglerLive)

Cooper the dog has drawn a following from advocates who’d rather see the dog sent to a shelter for dangerous dogs on the state’s west coast. They demonstrated on his behalf during Flagler Beach’s July 4 parade. Click on the image for larger view. (© FlaglerLive)

The 6-year-old dog called Cooper has been quarantined at the Flagler Humane Society since Feb. 27, following the second time he bit someone, and the second time he was declared dangerous and slated to be killed, in accordance with law.

Cooper’s owner appealed Palm Coast Animal Control’s ruling to Flagler County Circuit Court on May 18. But the case has lingered there since, and the bills for Dottye Benton, the dog’s owner, have been piling up: it costs $30 a day to keep the dog on a “bite quarantine” at the Humane Society. The bill so far has just exceeded $5,000.

And now the dog has bitten a third person.

According to code enforcement documentation of the incident, Benton was at the Humane Society on Aug. 16, visiting the dog. She had been in the dog’s kennel and was leaving it just when the victim, a relatively new, 26-year-old staffer at the Humane Society, was turning off lights in a certain area of the kennels, just before he was to get off work at 5 p.m.

As Benton was exiting the kennel, “Cooper managed to get out of his kennel and ran up to me viciously biting me on my left hip,” the staffer wrote in his sworn affidavit. After a few seconds Dotti [sic.] dropped her phone ran over and grabbed Cooper taking him back to kis kennel. Dotti came up to me after to see if I was alright telling me not to say anything to anyone.”

cooper dog bite

Cooper bit the humane society staffer on the hip. (Palm Coast)

There was no denying the bite: security footage would have showed it. Benton did not merely allegedly attempt to cover up the bite. Eva Rodriguez, Palm Coast’s Animal Control officer, noted in her report that Benton “made no attempt to report this bite as I was at the shelter at the time of the bite.” A Palm Coast spokesperson said today the third bite was still under investigation.

Benton did not return a call today.

The victim treated his own bite, which did not require stitches, as was the case with Cooper’s two previous attacks, the first one in Port Orange.

By law, any dog already declared dangerous that bites a person a second time, drawing a second dangerous-dog designation, “shall” be killed, under Florida law. Palm Coast Animal Control reached that conclusion, which Benton appealed to a city hearing officer. The hearing officer upheld Code Enforcement’s decision.

Benton is not aiming to reclaim the dog or remove the dangerous-dog designation, but to send Cooper to a shelter for dangerous dogs on the west coast of Florida. The effort has drawn considerable support in Palm Coast and Flagler: Cooper’s supporters even marched in Flagler Beach’s July 4 parade then held a small rally to press for his exile to the shelter. They wrote letters to the Palm Coast City Council, singling out Mayor Milissa Holland. The council stood by its code enforcement department’s decision, saying it has no voice in the matter, a position Benton’s attorney disputes: the council, her attorney claims, could in fact overturn the decision, to the extent that it could agree to send the dog west.

The dog’s continued aggressive behavior, however–and its owner’s apparent attempt to cover it up–can only dim any such prospect, even assuming that the council were to give the case another look. It has given no sign of such intentions, leaving it to the court to decide. The case in court has yet to be docketed for a hearing. That’s not necessarily unusual. Last year Palm Coast resident Ellen Puerta filed an appeal in the case of her terrier-pitbull dog Muneco, which Palm Coast had declared dangerous but condemned to death–until a hearing officer did so. It took eight months months for a hearing to be scheduled, and nine for a resolution (the court upheld the dangerous-dog determination but reversed the death sentence and allowed the dog to be returned to its owner.)

Meanwhile, Cooper remains at the Humane Society.

“This is really just a difficult and sad situation,” said Amy Carotenuto, the society’s executive director. “Cooper is good with people that he knows, not so much new people.”

Aug. 27 update: Benton paid the initial $200 owed for the first 10 days of quarantine at the Humane Society. She has not paid since. “The City received an invoice from the Humane Society for $3,405 for the period of March 10 through July 31,” a Palm Coast spokesperson said in a email on Aug. 27. “The City then sent a letter to Ms. Benton reminding her that she’s responsible for the charges. She will be required to pay within 14 days of the conclusion of the appellate proceedings. Otherwise, Cooper would be considered abandoned and would thereafter be destroyed in an expeditious and humane manner.”

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36 Responses for “As Quarantine Costs Reach $5,000, Dangerous Dog Cooper Bites 3rd Victim–and Owner Attempts Hush-Up”

  1. Mary Fusco says:

    Maybe Cooper was attempting to protect his owner from someone new. It seems strange that whenever this woman is around Cooper, he manages “to get out” and bite. I have a 20 pound JackChi who is a FHS rescue. He is 3 and does not “take well” to strangers in our home. When I am having a repair person or a stranger in my house I make sure that he is secured and I mean secured before I let them in. Humans are supposed to have superior intelligence but I sometimes wonder. I feel for that poor dog. He has been stuck in a cage for 7 months. Maybe this woman just needs to surrender him and move on.

  2. hawkeye says:

    this dog needs to be put down

  3. Arlene says:

    I love dogs. I have been a foster for the animal rescues for over twenty years. I have seen and taken care of all kinds of dogs, and believe in giving them a second chance. Maybe they lashed out because of circumstances. They had their tail pulled, where sat on etc., but there are some dogs that just can’t be controlled and are a danger to others…to people and to other dogs. They seem to live a life angry, and not happy. Not like a normal dog. They are unpredictable. So, what a sad life for the dog, and a dangerous one for everyone else around the dog. So, what does it take to finally admit defeat and let the dog go? Hard…..yes, but sometimes necessary. Who will be the next victim? A child? Will you be able to live with that? Is it worth it? Hardly.

  4. Heather Colombo says:

    At this point, ENOUGH IS ENOUGH!

    My gosh how many victims must there be?!?

  5. JohnX says:

    If it was you being bitten or mangled by this dog you would not feel it is fair at all. Maybe this or Maybe that does not take away the totally unfair experience of an attack dog.

  6. Really says:

    3 strikes Coop

  7. Richard says:

    Put the dog down as Cooper has proven to be a menace to people and cannot be trusted. Then have the owner pay the tab that has accumulated for keeping the dog there for so long which has been a waste of time. He should have been put down long ago.

  8. Saving Cooper says:

    August 19th 2018 this was posted on the Saving Cooper Facebook page well in advance to any media publication.

    To all of our wonderful supporters, we are with a heavy heart, sorry to announce that Cooper, who has been locked up for over 6 months now, with very limited to no time out of his kennel, who wants out of FHS to go home, and doesn’t understand why he can’t leave with his owner when she comes to visit,
    had an incident last week at FHS. When his owner was leaving, he ran out of his kennel and bit a new kennel worker. 💔😢 According to Cooper’s owner, the kennel worker reassured her he was fine.

    None of this would have happened nor would Cooper be so traumatized from being confined for over 6 months, if the city had just released him in April to the Rescue Ranch.

    Any animal confined to a cage for an extreme length of time everyone knows will go crazy, crazy to getting out!

    The Rescue Ranch that wants Cooper is experienced with handling dogs that are aggressive and dogs that have aggressive tendencies due to being caged for an extreme amount of time.
    The owner of the rescue ranch has 20 yrs experience with German Sheppards and 21 yrs with Rottweilers. Never taking a bite, shows the experience that will be exactly what Cooper needs in order to not be put down.

    We are sad for Cooper whose life has been so affected by human error and an absence of behavior training. 😢

    Cooper’s owner appreciates the support from the community and we will still continue to fight for Cooper to go to the Rescue Ranch.

  9. Anonymous says:

    Enough! The dog must be put down. This owner does not get to endanger the public when she is not willing or able to take care of the problem herself.

  10. Veteran says:

    Cooper should have sent to the shelter a long time ago! What’s the f**king hold up? Government bureaucracy I guess.

  11. Scheyenne says:

    I still think that it’s defense in some way. They’ve said several times that Cooper has been good with other workers. I think that had he been sent away by now to the ranch, this would obviously not have happened. How would you feel being locked up in a small cage, with little to no outdoor time, for nearly 6 months. I’m sure he’s going crazy being cooped up like he has been. Just let him go to the ranch where there are people to take care of him who deal with this and where he can run around. I just feel sad for him!!

  12. Trailer Bob says:

    Apparently many of the comments here are from people who do not understand dogs. Cooper should have been sent west to the rescue ranch long agol. I have to wonderful German Shepherd Dogs, They are big babies and love people, but lock them in a cage 24/7 for months and that most likely would change.One of my dogs has bite four times, all strictly when strangers have put their hands over the fence or just walked into the house without knocking first. That is what they are supposed to do. Cooper apparently is very attached to his owner and needs some training on how to respond to people he doesn’t know. It is bordering on sadistic that the county will not just send this dog to the rescue. Who is it that cannot grasp this concept of a win. win for the dog, the owner, and for the public.

  13. A Concerned Observer says:

    Funny, but if Cooper was a dangerous multiple count felon he would have been be out on bail since February 28th…

  14. Mythought says:

    My heart goes out to Cooper for being in this situation but what I have read here; it sounds to me like Cooper’s owner is at fault, sad that Cooper has to pay the price for a careless owner. Human error.

  15. Algonquin J. Calhoun says:

    Blame should be shared with the dog’s owner. All too often dog bites are the result of an owner’s reluctance to socialize their pet, or worse yet, encourage bad behavior. If one gets a speeding ticket they can opt to take a safety course to avoid points on their license. After the first bite, the dog’s owner should be offered the chance to take a class in dog training or risk having the animal taken away after the second or third bite.

  16. Anonymous says:

    Cooper I feel for you, it sounds as though you have a careless owner that lacks the knowledge you needed and now your paying the price.

  17. Concerned says:

    I’m soooooo sad for this dog. Please send him to this Ranch and let him live out his remaining years there. A cage is a terrible thing for an animal.

  18. Born and Raised Here says:

    Dog needs to be euthanized.

  19. palmcoaster says:

    I am still convinced that is not Cooper’s fault.
    Please let this dog once and for all go to the rescue ranch to be rehabilitated away and forever from the current owner. Even the Flager Humane Society shelter Director Amy Carotenuto that I’ve know for years and really knows about dogs, says, “This is really just a difficult and sad situation,” said Amy Carotenuto, the society’s executive director. “Cooper is good with people that he knows, not so much new people.”

  20. Anonymous says:

    This dog is not aggressive, he is protective. There is a big difference. I have had many dogs like Cooper in my lifetime. This is the fault of the city of palm coast. He should have been sent to the ranch months ago. He is in his cage 23 hours a day. There is such a thing as kennel rage that begins to affect an animal that is locked up like this. Send this dog where he belongs and stop wasting taxpayers dollars!

  21. Jeffrey says:

    Appears to be the fault of the Humane Society staff (and and never has anyone ever been left along in a cage with any animal especially if this dog was listed as a dangerous animal) for not making sure the cages were secured before shutting down the lights. #1, you don’t leave people in the cages while shutting down the lights if that also took place. You do NOT rely on citizens to secure cages for animals that YOU are responsible for. This should get interesting. So, let’s hear the true breakdown of this.

  22. Charlie says:

    Any animal, human or other wise that’s been locked up in a small cage for 6 months will go “TRIBAL”……Just look at what happens in prisons……Send the dog to the ranch so it can live out its life free open spaces. I’ve cut myself shaving worse then that little cut on the staffer. Jesus , what a bunch of wussie’s.

  23. Dog Lover says:

    Seems to me, based on Flagler Humane Society shelter Director Amy Carotenuto comment, . “Cooper is good with people that he knows, not so much new people.” .It sounds to me like a dog who is trying to protect his home from strangers.

  24. Mary Fusco says:

    Agree Dog Lover. Why is this dog’s “former” owner allowed to constantly visit him at FHS? A dog has the mentality of possibly a 3 year old child. He is confused when she leaves and is most likely acting out. If you put a child in foster care and the mother visits it every day BUT does not take it home, the child is confused and will act out. The owner is WRONG because she did not control her dog. I have had dogs for 50 years and even the most mild mannered dog can and will bite if they get a bad vibe. It is up to the owner to have them in control. This dog should have been released to the farm months ago and since this woman has been fighting this, she needs to repay FHS the $5,000 that could be used to help other dogs. Ridiculous.

  25. thomas says:

    Cooper should be executed,

  26. Rio Post says:

    Cooper is just a very protective dog to his owner. Humans especially the FHS staff should know more about this and should have done better to handle him. It is right, it is not Cooper’s fault! Humans should always be in control. Locking him up in the little cage with a lot of other dogs barking all over him would really drive him nuts! While seeing his dear owner whom he protects a lot after probably a long time not being with her only shows Cooper’s love and that Cooper is willing to sacrifice his own life just to protect her, probably thinking that the FHS staff was a threat to his owner. How come he was not sent immediately to the ranch where they know how to treat Cooper? To give him another chance. Our fur friends only have short lives in this world. Dogs like Cooper only rely to us humans to have a better short life in this world. Why would we take that chance away from him? Were they waiting for Cesar Millan to personally train Cooper? He’s definitely very busy. So sad!!!

  27. Common sense says:


  28. jane doh says:

    The owner has been trying to get poor Cooper released to the rescue ranch.

  29. Anonymous says:

    This poor pup has been placed in circumstances he cannot understand – to be cooped up in a kennel for 6 months. I think it is time to free him and let him go to the Rottweiler Rescue Ranch where he will spend the rest of his days instead of being held hostage. The other cases – a dog being protective of his house and owner. The last case – a worker in the home disobeying the signs and instructions placed himself in a position where he was bitten – he stuck his face in the dog’s face. Sounds like he did it on purpose just to sue the homeowner. One further comment: I think this pup is a political hostage. Why not solve this by letting him go to the rescue facility? I know this is one pup, but to save one pup means that other pets in sim. circumstance may be saved as well. Please have a little compassion for Cooper.PLEASE SAVE THIS PUP. Remember: “The greatness of a nation and its moral progress can be judged by the way its animals are treated.” ― Mahatma Gandhi

  30. Just Curious says:

    Just curious if anyone would have this much empathy for a human who continually did something like this? NO NO NO. No matter what “circumstances” someone is raised in – they would say it’s unacceptable. Put the dog down before someone gets really hurt already!

  31. Man’s Best Friend says:

    If you have been lucky enough to have experienced the loyalty and devotion of a dog just once in your lifetime you would never be okay With taking this dog’s life. I hope our elected officials stand up for this dog.

  32. Richard says:

    For those posters who think that Cooper should not be put down I just want to say that if you or one of your small children had half of your face torn off by Cooper I bet that you wouldn’t be so tolerable on keeping him alive. I have owned dogs almost all of my lifetime. I currently own a 13 year old Golden Retriever who is the most caring, loving & smartest dog I have ever own. However, if any of my dogs had ever shown the least little bit of mean aggression towards any human I would not hesitate to put the dog down. I will NOT tolerate any aggressive dog under ANY circumstances.

  33. Hugh Janus says:

    2 words: doggy heaven

  34. Mythoughts says:

    Richard you sound like a responsible pet owner, unfortunately not all animal owners are responsible as you can see from this story.
    The sad part is the animal suffers the blunt of the owners mistakes and then, the animal has to pay the price.

  35. Seaglasslvr says:

    This is heartbreaking and unnecessary . The ranch that is willing to take Cooper has a 3 million dollar liability insurance policy to relieve the city of any responsibility. But the city would rather spend the taxpayers money to draw it out and force the owner to spend all her money. She isn’t even trying to keep her dog! Can you imagine how hard this is on her? As for the last bite , Cooper has been in that kennel for six months . I think that would bring out some aggression. Yes , he does seem to have a protective streak in him when it comes to his owner. She won’t be at the ranch. This is a lot of stupidity. If I were the mayor I wouldn’t count on another term. Send him to the ranch ! They want him and are experiences with these types of situations.

  36. Seaglasslvr says:

    Richard normally I would say I agree with you 100% . But your comment doesn’t hold water here. The owner isn’t trying to keep her dog. She wants him to go to a ranch that is there for dogs like him. They are there for dogs like Cooper. Somehow I doubt that they have children visiting.

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