Florida Dog Bite Law
If Florida animal control authority receives a report of a dog that may be dangerous, the authority will conduct an investigation into whether the dog should be officially classified as a “dangerous dog” under Florida’s dog bite laws. If the dog is classified as dangerous, it must be kept under certain restrictions.
How Does a Dog Get Classified as Dangerous Under Florida Dog Bite Law?
A dog may be classified as dangerous if it:
- Has aggressively bitten, attacked, endangered or inflicted severe injury on a human being on public or private property.
- Has severely injured or killed a domestic animal on more than one occasion while off the owner’s property.
- Has been used primarily or in part for dog fighting or is trained for dog fighting.
- Without being provoked, the dog has chased or approached a person on public property in a “menacing fashion or apparent attitude of attack.”
Will My Dog Be Taken Away from Me if it Bites Someone?
The animal control authority will investigate any reports that a dog may be dangerous. The dog may be taken away from the owner and impounded if it bites or attacks someone. If the dog is not impounded by the authority, the owner must keep the dog in a securely fenced or enclosed area pending the outcome of the investigation. During the investigation, the dog’s owner may not relocate or transfer the ownership of the dog.
The dog owner will have a right to appeal any initial or final determination classifying the dog as dangerous.
What Must the Dog Owner Do About the Dangerous Dog?
Under Florida dog bite law, once the dog is designated as dangerous, it must be registered as such with the authority. Additionally, the dog must be kept within a secure enclosure on which are posted clearly visible warning signs at all entry points that warn both adults and children that there is a dangerous dog on the property. The dog must also be given a permanent identification, such as a tattoo or an electronic implant, identifying the dog as a certified dangerous dog.
If a dog has been designated as dangerous, it will be unlawful for the dog’s owner to permit the dog to be outside the enclosure unless the dog is muzzled and restrained by a “substantial chain or leash” and under the control of a competent person over 18 years of age.
Dogs that have been classified as dangerous may not be used for hunting.
Consequences of Violating the Restrictions Placed on Dangerous Dogs
Any dog owner who violates any of the restrictions placed on dangerous dogs may be charged with a noncriminal infraction and fined up to $500. Moreover, if the dog bites someone, depending on the circumstances, the owner may be charged with a crime. In the worst cases, the dog owner may face a homicide charge if someone dies from a dog attack. Furthermore, in the event of a civil lawsuit, such a violation will only strengthen the victim’s case against the dog owner.
What if the Dog is Protecting the Owner?
A dog will not be declared “dangerous” under the law 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 someone in the dog’s immediate vicinity from an unjustified attack or assault.
Source: Chapter 767, Florida Statutes (2009).
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.