A Bal Harbour councilwoman brings her four-legged friend to a meeting — and gets a resident in the audience irate.
BY RODOLFO ROMAN
Special to the Miami Herald
Councilwoman Patricia Cohen brought her Chihuahua inside a dog carrier to a council meeting last month — to the irritation of one person in the audience.
While seating on the dais, the dog was next to Cohen in a carrier throughout the meeting.
But no one was aware that the dog was there until Cohen got up to leave. That’s when resident Anamarie Kelly took notice and addressed the council.
“My dog would be stopped if I tried to bring her to the meeting,” Kelly said.
Village director of community outreach Jay Smith said if it wasn’t for Kelly, no one would have known about the pooch.
“It was only after this outburst that anyone was aware that Councilwoman Cohen had the dog with her in the carrier,” he said.
Bal Harbour has no law explicitly forbidding dogs from attending public meetings. But signs are posted at Village Hall stating pets aren’t allowed in the building.
Service animals are permitted in Village Hall and all other village facilities.
Cohen, who was elected last year and works in landscaping, said she was driving from Homestead and didn’t want to be tardy to the meeting.
“I didn’t have time to drop off the dog at home,” Cohen said in a phone interview. “I didn’t want to leave the dog inside the car because it was hot outside.”
Unlike residents and visitors who are greeted by guards and a metal detector in the hall leading to the chambers, council members usually enter the south side of the building “for security purposes,” Bal Harbour police chief Tom Hunker said.
Kelly said Cohen, who used the side entrance, was flouting village rules.
“Ms. Cohen had a dog under the nose of the village lawyer,” said Kelly, a sometimes colorful presence at council meetings who once wore duct tape across her mouth inside village hall chambers.
Kelly said she plans on bringing her mixed-breed pooch, Molly, to Tuesday’s meeting.
“My dog is coming to the next village meeting and she will have a lawyer,” wrote Kelly in an e-mail directed to village officials and several news sources, including CNN.
Hunker said those who bring a dog inside the building will be asked to remove the dog or face a trespass warning — or even arrest.
Said Smith, the community outreach director: “Councilwoman Cohen was notified and she will not be bringing the dog again.”