TAMPA (FOX 13) - Hillsborough County is now one of the first counties in the state to regulate dog trainers, and some say an incident at the courthouse before the hearing on the ordinance underscores the need for the law.
Wednesday afternoon, commissioners approved an ordinance that will require trainers to get a license. The ordinance was proposed after a dog's death was blamed on the trainer.
But just before the meeting started, something very scary happened in the courthouse hallway.
The dog trainer who is the main opponent of the ordinance was standing outside the commission chamber, waiting in line with other people to get in.
He had a dog with him that witnesses say was wearing some type of service dog vest.
Those witnesses say the dog suddenly lunged at a 5-year-old boy and bit his face.
“The child was doing nothing but standing with his mom,” said Marie Kelley, who witnessed the attack. “He spun around, grabbed the child by the head, and shook him like he was going to kill him.”
EMS was quickly on the scene, tending to the boy's injured face. He was taken to the hospital. We don't know his condition.
The trainer, whose name is Clark Ingrham, surrendered the dog to animal control and it was euthanized within hours.
When the meeting did start, Commissioner Al Higginbotham presented the ordinance that he has been working on for some time.
It would require dog trainers to get a license from the county and follow several regulations.
The dog attack that occurred minutes before only added fuel to his argument.
"I will welcome public comment and always value and cherish freedom of speech, but I will tell you, board members, it’s going to be very hard for me to hear opposition in [light] of what happened at our house here today,” Commissioner Higginbotham said.
Clark Ingrham's daughter spoke to the commission. She apologized for what happened and said it was a result of the dog feeding off the negative energy outside the commission chambers.
She said this ordinance unfairly targets her dad and other trainers.
Ingrham was blamed by a family for their dog’s death, saying he suffocated it during a training session two years ago. He has said he is not responsible for the dog's death.
The family has a civil case pending against Ingrham.