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The Yau Law Firm
Focused on Protecting Businesses and Representing the Injured

Dog Bite Injuries in Florida – Part II: Dangerous Dogs and Insuring Against Owners’ Losses

 This is the second in a two-part series on dog-related injuries in Florida.  The first segment, we discussed a dog owner’s liability when their pets bite, injure, or otherwise harass.  We also answer whether a dog’s past good or bad behavior makes a difference.  In this second part, we see how Florida Statutes define a “dangerous dog.”  Also, we will explore how dog owners can insure themselves against their puppies’ transgressions.

Dangerous Dogs

Animal Control conducts investigations to determine whether an animal should be declared a “dangerous dog.”  While the investigation is pending, the dog cannot be re-located from its owner’s residence, and ownership of the dog cannot be transferred.  If a dog is declared dangerous, the owner has many additional burdens and costs associated with owning it, including:

  1. Obtain a Certificate of Registration for the dangerous dog, and renew it annually;
  2. Maintain a current Certificate of Rabies Vaccination;
  3. Confine the dog to the residence, and maintain “Bad Dog” signage;
  4. Obtain permanent identification on the dog (e.g. tattoo or ID chip under the skin);
  5. Contact Animal Control if the dog:
    1. Escapes;
    2. Bit someone or attacked another animal;
    3. Is sold, given away, or dies; or
    4. Is moved to another address; and
  6. Muzzle the dog when it is not confined, and have it on a leash, under a “competent person’s” control.

These are very strict obligations on the owner of a bad dog.  If the owner fails to comply, they could be fined up to $500.

If the dangerous dog bites again, the dog owner is guilty of a first degree misdemeanor.  That charge becomes a felony if the dog causes severe injury or death.  The dog is then confiscated and quarantined.  If the owner does not request a hearing in 10 days, the dog will be destroyed.  The owner is responsible for all boarding fees and associated costs.

When Does A Dog Need A Lawyer?

It’s not a joke.  Sometimes, dogs need lawyers too.  While an attorney is typically involved to represent a person injured by a dog, if there is a hearing surrounding the confiscation or destruction of a dog, an attorney should get involved as well.

To best protect themselves from liability, dog owners should carry homeowners’ insurance.  To best understand policy coverages and exclusions, a lawyer should read and interpret the policy description.

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