Many Floridians have dogs that make adorable and faithful friends. However, an owner can be responsible for a dog’s aggressive actions. A Florida dog owner was recently found liable after her dog pursued a neighbor and the neighbor’s dog. The attack allegedly caused the victim to fall and break her wrist. The victim’s dog was also hurt. The victim obtained damages against the attacking dog’s owner, even though the dog was not previously violent.
The owner was ordered to send her dog to obedience training and have a microchip implanted in the dog for identification. The owner was also issued a citation for having a “vicious dog.” In the event of a future attack, local authorities can remove the dog from the home and even put it down if the attack is severe.
Strict liability for dog bites and attacks
According to Florida law, dog owners are strictly liable if their dogs attack someone in a private or public place where the victim has a right to be. This means that the victim need not prove that the dog owner was negligent in the handling of the dog. Instead, compensation is awarded based only on the fact that the attack took place and the victim was injured.
Note that, as opposed to other states, strict liability in Florida does not just apply to dogs previously deemed vicious. Florida dog owners are strictly liable whenever a dog bites or otherwise attacks someone.
Exceptions and defenses to strict liability
A victim bitten by a dog can have the damages reduced by the extent the person provoked the dog. For example, a person who was bitten by a dog in the course of a trespass or burglary cannot obtain damages from the dog’s owner. An owner whose residence prominently displays a sign on the premises at the time of attack notifying others that there is a “bad dog” around is not liable for any dog bites that occur there, unless the owner was otherwise negligent in handling and/or restraining the dog. However, a Florida dog owner is liable in all circumstances if the victim is under the age of six.