Do You Know a Dangerous Dog?
It goes without saying that dog owners should always take steps to properly care for their pets. They should also take steps to ensure that they are not a potential harm to the public. As we all know, however, accidents can happen. If your dog is involved in an incident where a person is bitten, and the incident is reported, it is possible that your dog will (from that point forward) be deemed a “dangerous dog” under the Florida Statutes. This designation will have several impacts upon both your dog and upon you as the dog owner.
What is a Dangerous Dog?
A “dangerous dog,” as defined in §767.11, Florida Statutes, is one that has aggressively bitten, attacked, or endangered or has inflicted severe injury on a human being on public or private property; has more than once severely injured or killed a domestic animal while off the owner’s property; or has been used primarily or in part for the purposes of dog fighting. Further, even an instance of your dog chasing or approaching a person upon the streets, sidewalks or any public grounds in a menacing fashion or apparent attitude of attack without provocation can be enough for your dog to be deemed “dangerous.”
What Happens if My Dog is Deemed “Dangerous”?
If your dog bites someone, or is accused of one of the other wrongs identified in the above-mentioned statute, an animal control authority will likely investigate the matter and could determine your dog is in fact a dangerous dog. If this happens, the dog could be destroyed, or, in the alternative, you as the owner will have to take certain steps to ensure similar bad acts are not repeated by your “dangerous dog.”
Steps the owner may have to take
Register the dog as dangerous
First, the owner must obtain a certificate of registration for the dangerous dog from animal control. To get this registration, the owner will have to provide proof of vaccinations, evidence that the dog will be kept in a proper enclosure displayed with a visible “dangerous dog” sign and evidence that the dog has been tattooed or has an electronic implant for permanent identification.
Keep the dog in a proper enclosure
While on the owner’s property, the dangerous dog must be securely confined indoors or in a securely enclosed and locked pen or structure. This structure must be suitable to prevent the entry of young children and designed to prevent the animal from escaping. The pen or structure must have secure sides as well as a secure top to prevent the dog from escaping over, under or through it.
Take note that this requirement applies to the actual “owners” of a dangerous dog. The statute defines owner as any person possessing, harboring, keeping or having control or custody of the animal, or the parent of such person if he or she is younger than 18 years old. If a friend or relative asks you to care for their dog, make sure you know if it has been deemed as dangerous and if whether or not you are required to keep the dog in a proper enclosure as defined in the statute. Failing to do so could expose you to substantial liability risks if there were another incident involving the dangerous dog.
Use proper restraints when walking or moving the dog
If a dangerous dog is taken out of its proper enclosure, the dog must generally be muzzled and on a chain or leash at all times.
Notify the authorities immediately if the dog escapes
The owner must notify animal control authorities immediately if the dangerous dog escapes its enclosure, if it bites someone again, if there is a change in ownership of the dog or if it dies.
Consequences of Non-Compliance
It is important to be aware that owners who do not comply with the requirements relating to dangerous dogs can face substantial fines and even jail time. Additionally, if someone is injured by a dog known to be dangerous and there is evidence of the owner not taking the steps required by statute, the dog bite victim could make a claim for punitive damages.
If you have been the victim of an attack from a dangerous dog, report the incident to local authorities, seek treatment for your injuries and know that you can always call on an attorney for legal help. The personal injury attorneys at Rue & Ziffra have handled dog bite cases and can help you learn more about your rights.
The above entry is NOT LEGAL ADVICE and should not be intended or construed as such. It is intended only as general information. No individual reading it should act upon it. Reading this entry does not create any relationship between Rue & Ziffra and individuals reading it. If you have questions or concerns, please seek professional legal counsel.