According to a
2013-2014 survey by the American Pet Products Association, 68 percent of U.S. households,
or 83.3 million homes, own a pet. Moreover, nearly
4.5 million Americans are bitten by dogs alone each year and, of these injuries, approximately
half are suffered by children. Children are a particularly vulnerable
demographic as one in five dog bites result in injuries that require medical
attention, such as reconstructive surgery. While many people cannot imagine
a beloved family pet attacking guests or strangers, as statistics show,
dog bites can and do occur, even when there is no prior history of violent
Interactions Between Dogs and Children
While many dogs interact well with children, even friendly dogs can become
aggressive if children behave in certain ways that trigger a defensive
For example, a child may come too close when a dog is eating or chewing on a bone.
Or, a child may grab food items from a dog or its surrounding areas. In
other situations, young children may treat a dog like a toy and yank its
tail or startle it while sleeping. Toddlers often do not understand that
their actions may hurt a dog and cannot defend themselves if a dog reacts
aggressively. Additionally, once a dog is provoked and begins to growl
or lunge forward, children may yell loudly and begin to run away, which
may trigger further predatory behavior.
To mitigate dangerous incidents between dogs and children, it is important
to supervise all interactions, even if your dog is friendly and has had
previous contact with children. Moreover, a dog owner has a responsibility
to learn the warning signs for when a dog is becoming agitated or aggressive.
Early indications of trouble include a dog baring his teeth or barking
and growling at a child.
Liability for Dog Bites
Florida operates under the
theory of strict liability for dog bites which means that an owner can be held accountable for her
or his dog’s actions regardless of intent or fault. However, liability
may be mitigated depending on the negligence of the person who is bitten.
A dog owner is not liable except for injuries suffered by a person under
the age of six if the owner has displayed in a prominent place on his
or her premises a sign that is easily readable containing the words “Bad
In some circumstances, individuals other than a dog’s owner can also
be held liable for injuries caused by dog bites. A landlord may be held
liable for damages caused by a tenant’s dog if the landlord is aware
of a history of violence or attacks and if he or she fails to enforce
“no dog” clauses in a rental agreement. This is a corollary
of the “one bite rule” which allows victims to recover damages
when a dog has a known history of biting or attempts to bite.
At The Pittman Firm, our attorneys have extensive experience handling dog
bite cases and are ready to help you recover compensation for your injuries.
Call us today for a free consultation on your case.