When the Bite Is Worse than the Bark: Florida Dog Bite Laws
Florida has laws in place to determine who is at fault when it comes to dog bites. According to Florida Statutes, the owner of the dog is liable if:
- Their dog bites a person, and
- That person was in a public place or a lawful guest on private property
Florida dog bite laws are somewhat limited in that they do not usually cover anything other than a bite. This means that other behavior, such as jumping up and knocking someone over, is not usually covered by Florida’s dog bite statute. However, a person injured by behavior that is not a bite could file a general negligence claim against the dog’s owner.
Strict Liability and Negligence Claims
Florida is a strict liability state in regards to dog bites, meaning that the owner is responsible for the dog bite regardless of whether or not they knew that the dog may bite someone. Also, it doesn’t matter if the owner took precautions to prevent biting, such as keeping the dog on a leash or in a closed area. If the dog bites someone that is lawfully allowed to be there, then the owner is strictly liable for the dog bite.
However, injuries suffered due to other behavior like jumping or pushing from a dog is not covered. Injured parties may file a negligence claim against the dog owner, and may cite negligent actions such as allowing the dog to be off-leash or leaving a gate open.
Criminal Liability for Dog Bites
Florida also has a “Dangerous Dog Act” that says a dog owner may be charged with a misdemeanor if their dog has been declared “dangerous” by the animal control board and attacks a person or another domestic animal without provocation.
If the owner knew that the dog had acted aggressively in the past, but it was not reported, they may also be charged with a misdemeanor for unprovoked bites.
If an owner knew, or reasonably should have known that their dog was “likely to cause death or great bodily injury” if not restrained, they could even be charged with a felony if their dog attacks someone.