Under Florida dog bite law, a dog owner whose dog bites someone may be sued in civil court by the dog bite victim. The dog owner may also face criminal charges under Florida law, up to and including homicide in the worst cases. Under some circumstances, the dog may have to be destroyed.
The Florida Dangerous Dog Act
Florida’s Dangerous Dog Act provides that if a dog that has not been declared “dangerous” by the animal control authority attacks and causes severe injury or death to a human, the dog will be confiscated by the authority and impounded or quarantined. If the dog’s owner had prior knowledge of the dog’s dangerous propensities, but demonstrated reckless disregard under the circumstances, the owner may be charged with a second-degree misdemeanor punishable by up to 60 days imprisonment.
If a dog that has already been classified as a dangerous dog attacks or bites a person or a domestic animal without provocation, the dog’s owner faces a first-degree misdemeanor charge. A first-degree misdemeanor is punishable by up to one year in prison.
If a dog that has previously been classified as a dangerous dog attacks and causes severe injury or death to a human, the owner faces a third-degree felony charge. Such a charge carries a potential sentence of five years in prison.
In Extreme Cases, the Dog’s Owner May be Charged with Manslaughter
If a dog kills a human and if the owner has demonstrated a high level of disregard for human life, the State of Florida may charge the dog’s owner with manslaughter by culpable negligence, regardless of whether or not the dog was ever classified a dangerous dog under the law. Manslaughter by culpable negligence is a second-degree felony punishable by up to 15 years in prison.
Will a Dangerous Dog be Euthanized?
When a dog attacks or bites someone in Florida, the dog will be immediately confiscated by the animal control authorities and will either be placed in quarantine, if appropriate, or impounded. The dog’s owner will be provided with written notification of the dog’s quarantine or impounding and the dog will be held for 10 business days to give the owner time to file a written appeal. If the owner does not appeal, the dog will be humanely destroyed.
If the owner files an appeal, the dog may not be destroyed while the appeal is pending. The dog’s owner will be responsible for all boarding costs and other fees necessary to keep the dog during the appeal procedure. If the owner loses the appeal, the dog may be destroyed.
What if the Dog is Protecting the Owner?
If the dog attacks or bites someone who is committing a crime or attempting to commit a crime at the time of the attack, the owner will not be guilty of any crime.
It is also important to note that a dog will not be declared dangerous under Florida law in the first place if the person who is bitten by the dog was trespassing on the owner’s property or was tormenting, abusing or assaulting the dog or the dog’s owner or family member. Further, no dog will be declared dangerous if the dog was protecting or defending a human within the immediate vicinity of the dog from an unjustified attack or assault.
Disclaimer: This article is in no way intended as legal advice. For help with specific legal issues surrounding Florida’s dog bite law, or the dog bite laws in your jurisdiction, please contact a dog bite attorney in your local area.