Dog beater barred, then unbarred, from owning pets under Ponce’s Law

DAYTONA BEACH — A homeless man who beat and kicked his dog became the first person to be barred locally from owning pets under Ponce’s Law.

And Dean Sullivan will also be the first person to be unbarred.

The issue: The effective date of Ponce’s Law is Oct. 1. But Sullivan was sentenced on Monday.

The News-Journal asked Public Defender Jim Purdy, who had been unaware of the misdemeanor case, on Tuesday about the imposition of the ban before the effective date.

“It should not have been imposed,” Purdy said. “We are going to go straighten that out right now.”

Purdy talked to Assistant State Attorney Bryan Shorstein, who had also been made aware of the issue by the News-Journal. Purdy and Shorstein agreed that Sullivan’s lifetime ban on pet ownership would be removed.

Sullivan, 53, pleaded on Monday to misdemeanor animal cruelty. Prosecutors argued for the imposition of the lifetime ban, which is permitted under Ponce’s Law and named after a Labrador retriever puppy that was beaten to death in Ponce Inlet.

County Judge Dawn Fields granted the lifetime ban plus sentenced Sullivan to 240 days in the county jail.

The jail sentence already conforms with current law so that stands.

Shorstein had said on Monday it was the first time Ponce’s Law had been used in the 7th Circuit covering Volusia, Flagler, St. Johns and Putnam counties.

But while most new state laws take effect July 1, Ponce’s Law can’t be imposed until Oct. 1.

The delayed effective date is to give animal shelters more time to prepare for another part of the law which allows more time for pet owners to find their lost animals at shelters, said Debbie Taylor Darino, a resident who talked to legislators and led the effort to create Ponce’s Law.

Travis Archer, 44, of Ponce Inlet, was charged with felony animal cruelty in the Ponce case and is awaiting trial while lawyers appeal rulings to the 5th District Court of Appeal in Daytona Beach.

Darino said she was a little disappointed when she learned that Sullivan’s lifetime ban on pet ownership would be removed.

She said come Oct. 1 that won’t be a problem.

“It’s only a matter of time,” Darino said. “It will come into effect and people will have their animals taken away if they do stuff like this.”

In Sullivan’s case, a witness, Diana Vontevener, said she saw Sullivan sitting on the steps outside her law office in the 200 block of Seabreeze Boulevard abusing the dog, police said.

She said Sullivan was kicking the dog in the head and body and pulling it by its ears, police said.

Afterward, the dog was crying for about five minutes, according to a police report.

Vontevener confronted Sullivan, who told her, “This is my dog and I can do whatever the (expletive deleted) I want,” the report stated.

Sullivan told police the dog had been aggressive with him, but police said they observed the dog looking “very timid” and had its tail tucked between its rear legs.

No injuries were found on the dog, according to the report.

Police said they discovered Sullivan had an active warrant for failure to appear in court related to a misdemeanor charge of having an open container of alcohol in public. 

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