For many American families, a dog is more than a pet; it is a member of the family. Dogs can teach all of us, children and adults alike, about the true meaning of unconditional love. We understand the important place dogs (and, indeed, all pets) hold in the hearts of their owners.
We also know that dogs are powerful animals that can and do inflict serious injuries. One breed - pit bulls - inspires ongoing debate in communities across the country. We focus more on behavior than breed. From pit bull attacks to poodle bites, we protect people injured by dogs throughout the Panhandle region.
In recent weeks, we have seen multiple cases of pit bulls attacking children in Florida and the surrounding region. According to WEAR and WKRG, an 18 month old child was seriously injured in an encounter with three pit bulls on in South Alabama an Wednesday July 23. The child's father said he and his child were outside of their home when he heard the toddler cry out.
He turned to see three pit bulls attacking his daughter. She was taken to the hospital and initially listed in critical condition. Later, she remained in intensive care but was upgraded to stable condition. WEAR's report added that police say the incident was one of three pit bull attacks in south Alabama during a 24-hour timeframe.
This week, Florida Today also provided an update on a story involving a 4 year old boy who was killed in a pit bull attack in Riverview. On July 19, the child was enjoying ice cream and watching cartoons with a 15 year old cousin when he slipped away from the teen and went outside. Some details are a bit unclear, but at around 10:30 PM the boy was attacked and killed by his uncle's two pit bulls. Police noted the odor of marijuana when they arrived on scene. The report noted that criminal charges will not be filed. Although the piece does not discuss civil liability, the father has hired legal counsel and suggests the uncle was "careless and negligent."
Few topics relating to animals are as fiercely debated as whether pit bulls should be kept as pets. Currently, while localities can pass restrictions relating to dogs that have been specifically declared dangerous, Florida does not allow local governments to pass breed-specific regulations (Fl. St. 767.14). Of note, Miami-Dade County does have a fervently debated ordinance sharply restricting pit bull ownership that pre-dates the state restriction.
In general, proponents of such bans suggest the breed is inherently more dangerous, more aggressive, and more prone to attacking people than other types of dogs. In contrast, those who oppose breed-specific legislation generally and pit bull bans specifically say the breed is misunderstood and that propensity to attack is more about training than breed.
Ultimately, Florida law focuses on behavior over breed. On the civil injury front, Florida Statute 767.04 holds an owner strictly liable for dog bites, regardless of whether the dog has a history of biting. Florida law does impose additional responsibilities on owners of specific dogs that have been deemed dangerous, adding criminal penalties for failing to properly restrain such animals (see 767.12 et. seq.). Such laws can, as we've discussed before, also give rise to negligence per se actions.
If a dog bite injured you or a loved one, whether the dog was a pit bull or any other breed, you have legal rights. Call our attorney to discuss your right to monetary compensation.
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