Florida Dog Law
In Florida, dog owners are liable for any injury their dog inflicts on a person. The owner of a dog that bites a person in a public place, or bites a person while lawfully in a private place, including the owner’s property, is liable for damages, regardless of the dog’s former viciousness and regardless of the owner’s knowledge of viciousness. If, however, the victim’s negligence contributed to the biting incident, the owner’s liability will be reduced by the percentage that the victim’s negligence contributed to the bite.
This statute also contains another exception. If at the time of the injury, the owner displayed in a prominent place on his property a sign, easily readable, that includes the words, “Bad Dog,” the dog owner will not be liable, unless the injuries were caused by the owner’s negligence, or if the person bitten is under six years old.
Common Law Liability
In addition to Florida’s dog bite statute, those injured by dogs can also recover under the common law. In order to recover under the common law, the plaintiff must prove that the dog owner’s negligence caused the injury.
Dangerous Dog Statute
The Meaning of a “Dangerous Dog”
Under Florida Law, a Dangerous Dog is:
- a dog that has aggressively bitten, attacked, endangered, or inflicted a “severe injury” on a human. A severe injury is one that causes broken bones, multiple bites, or disfiguring lacerations that require sutures or reconstructive surgery;
- a dog that has on more than one occasion severely injured or killed a domestic animal while off the owner’s premises;
- a dog that, without provocation, has chased or approached a person on the streets, sidewalks, or any public place in a menacing fashion or with an apparent attitude of attack.
A dog will not be declared dangerous if the threat, injury, or damage was sustained by a person who, at the time, was unlawfully on the property, or lawfully on the property, but was tormenting, abusing, or assaulting the dog, its owner, or a family member. Additionally, a dog will not be declared dangerous if it caused injuries when it was protecting or defending a person within the immediate vicinity of the dog from an unjustified attack or assault.
Legal Responsibilities of Dangerous Dog Owners
- Owners of dangerous dogs must register their dogs with the state.
- An owner must either securely confine the dog indoors or confine it outdoors in a securely enclosed and locked pen or other structure that prevents the entry of young children, as well as the escape of the animal. When not confined, the dog must be muzzled and restrained by a substantial chain or leash and under the control of a competent person.
- Dangerous dog owners must post a clearly-visible warning sign at all entry points of the premises that informs both children and adults that a dangerous dog is on the property.
- Dangerous dogs must be permanently identified with a tattoo inside the thigh or an electronic implantation.
- The owner of a dangerous dog must immediately notify the appropriate animal control authority when the dog is loose or unconfined, when it has bitten a person or attacked an animal, when it is sold or given away, when it dies, or when it is moved to another address.
Liability of Dangerous Dog Owners
- Any violation of the Dangerous Dog Statute carries a civil penalty of up to $500.
- In addition to civil liability, the owner of a dangerous dog that attacks or bites a person or domestic animal, without provocation, is subject to a fine up to $1,000, and a term of imprisonment up to one year. In cases where a dangerous dog attacks and severely injures or kills a person, the owner is subject to a fine of up to $5,000 and a term of imprisonment of up to five years.
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