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How Responsible Of A Dog Owner Are You?

How Responsible Of A Dog Owner Are You?For some, one of the greatest freedoms that Americans enjoy is the right to have a loyal and faithful pet, like a dog. A dog, for many families, is not simply an animal in the house, but an actual family member that is often treated with love, respect, and care. Florida, of course, is no exception, and while the hot, year round weather means that northern breeds like Huskies and Samoyeds should be trimmed for comfort, it also means that the great weather allows dogs to be taken out regardless of the time of year.

The decision to become a dog owner is—while not as comprehensive—similar to the decision to raise a child. You are responsible for the feeding and health of the animal, you are not supposed to inflict violence upon the animal, and, should the law catch you shirking any of these responsibilities, you can be charged. Deciding to care for any living creature does mean you agree to take on certain legal obligations.

However, the decision to be responsible for a dog also means you have a responsibility to those around you. Unlike a child, who will eventually mature, learn to read, write, communicate and become a productive member of society, a dog is a domesticated animal. Over the years, it will remain an animal, and that means it will continue to behave like an animal. So your ability to care for a dog extends not just to the personal maintenance you expend on the dog, it also covers the people that your dog may interact with.

In other words, whatever your dog does to other people, you have to take responsibility for that too.

Ignorance Is No Excuse


This legal sentiment is most apparent in Florida’s approach to dogs and biting other people. Florida is a “strict liability” state when it comes to dog ownership. This means that if your dog bites someone else, you are legally responsible the moment it happens. Other states have a “one bite” law, which means that if you are not aware that your dog has a tendency to bite, and does so, you will not be held accountable for that first bite. However, subsequent bites, now that you are aware, mean increasingly serious repercussions if the dog bites continue and you don’t stop it.

Because of Florida’s strict liability state laws, there is no “free pass” the first time. Even if you didn’t previously know your dog was aggressive, you are still “on the hook” for the legal consequences. In some cases, if the dog is a known as a dangerous breed, such as Pit Bulls, which are actually banned in Miami-Dade County, then this puts even more onus on owners to act with care.

So remember that whether you’re keeping your dog safely contained on your property, or taking your dog out for a walk, exercise caution. Take care of your dog and make sure it doesn’t get away from you, because it could either get in trouble from entering traffic, or get you in trouble if it should bite someone.

rshapiro
Attorney M David Shapiro

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