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Posts Tagged ‘Florida Dangerous Dog Act’

What Does It Mean if a Dog is Certified as Dangerous Under Florida Law?

November 20th, 2009 No comments

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.”
Dogs Declared "Dangerous" will be Placed Under Restrictions

Dogs Declared "Dangerous" will be Placed Under Restrictions

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 Someone was Trying to Hurt Me or My Dog?

What if Someone was Trying to Hurt Me or My Dog?

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.

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Florida Dog Bite Law: What Happens If My Dog Bites Someone?

November 20th, 2009 50 comments

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.

What Happens Under Florida Law When a Dog Bites Someone?

What Happens Under Florida Law When a Dog Bites Someone?

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 My Dog Bit Someone While Protecting Me?

What If My Dog Bit Someone While Protecting Me?

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.

Additional Sources:  § 775.082, Florida Statutes (2009); Freeman v. State, 969 So. 2d 473 (Fla. 5th DCA 2007).

Additional Resources:  Homeowner Insurance for Dog Bites, How to Hire an Attorney

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.

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