One of the things many love about Miami Beach is the canine friendly atmosphere of Lincoln Road. Many outdoor cafes and restaurants allow their patrons to bring their dogs to sit with them on the patio while they enjoy their meals. However, this common practice is coming under fire after a mastiff mauled a Van Dyke Café waitress over Labor Day weekend. The waitress, Amy Calandrella, was waiting on a customer seated in the outdoor section when she bent down to give the dog a bowl of water. As she bent down, the dog, a cane corso breed, bit her in the face. Paramedics took Calandrella to Mount Sinai Medical Center, where she received more than 300 stitches. She then underwent more than seven hours of surgery to repair the damage inflicted by the dog.
No charges were filed against the owner of the dog, Teri Guttman Valdes, and the dog remains in the owner’s care. The attack has prompted many to speak out about the Van Dyke Café’s dog policy, including one who witnessed the attack. He stated, “There’s too many people and there’s too many dogs over there. I think it’s a recipe for disaster.” According to another witness, Valdes and a teenager arrived, both holding a leash for their dog. Upon their arrival, two smaller dogs were barking, so Valdes and the girl took their dogs to a corner table. When the witness’s girlfriend asked if she could pet the mastiff, she was told the dog “was not at all friendly.” When the waitress arrived with a bowl of water, Valdes told her to place the bowl in front of the mastiff. As Calandrella was bending down, without warning, “the black dog launched itself at her face.” Another waitress working at the time, who doesn’t believe Calandrella did anything to startle the dog, described the bite as “vicious.”
While the police were called, they are unable to do anything because dogs are allowed on Lincoln Road and labeled the attacked as “non-criminal.” However, many feel that Valdes should be held criminally liable because she knew her dog was dangerous and did nothing to warn the waitress. Conversely, animal rights activists think the opposition is overreacting and dog bites rarely happen on Lincoln Road. However, the head of Miami Coalition Against Breed Specific Legislation states that many dogs are often running around unleashed on Lincoln Road and “people have got to stop thinking that dogs are not dogs.” Laurie Hoffman, associate executive director of the Humane Society of Greater Miami, stated that both dog owners and the public needs to be aware that dogs “can and will bite” and need to take proper precautions. Calandrella has filed a worker’s compensation claim with the Van Dyke Café to pay for her injuries. The owner of the café says she’s been “doing remarkably well” in her recovery.
Van Dyke Café waitress mauled by dog on Lincoln Road, www.miamiherald.com September 17, 2012.