Do You Have a Dangerous Dog?

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 on private grounds, 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. However, if the victim’s negligence contributed to the biting, 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/her property a visible and readable sign, 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.

“Bad Dog” brings us to what a dangerous dog is. Under Florida Law, a dangerous dog is one that:

- has aggressively bitten, attacked, endangered, or inflicted a “severe injury” on a human;
- has, on more than one occasion, severely injured or killed a domestic animal while off the owner’s premises; or
- has, without provocation, 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 classified as dangerous if the threat, injury, or damage was sustained by a person who was unlawfully on the property, or lawfully on the property, but was tormenting, abusing, or assaulting the dog, its owner, or a family member. Also, 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.
If Florida’s animal control authority receives a report of a dog that may be dangerous, they will conduct an investigation into whether the dog should officially be classified as a “dangerous dog” under Florida’s dog bite laws. 
During an investigation the dog will most likely have to be confined within a securely fenced or enclosed area pending the investigation’s outcome.  During the pendency of the investigation, the dog’s owner may not relocate or transfer the ownership of the dog.

If a dog is classified as dangerous, it is kept under specific restrictions, such as:

- a secure enclosure;
- enclosure surrounded by visible warning signs at all entry points that warn both adults and children that there is a dangerous dog on the property;
- the dog gets permanent identification, such as a tattoo or an electronic implant, identifying the dog as a certified dangerous dog;
- and the dog can only be outside the enclosure when muzzled and restrained by a “substantial chain or leash” and under the control of a competent person over 18 years of age.

The dog may even be taken from the owner and impounded if it bites or attacks someone. One final note, dog owners do have the right to appeal any initial or final determinations classifying a dog as dangerous.

, Goldman, Babboni, Fernandez & Walsh are happy to give you advice on dogs, cats, cars, or your personal injury case. Let us consult with you at no cost. Schedule an appointment by emailing us at [email protected].


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