Your dog, Spot, is peacefully playing ball with you at the park. Suddenly, a young man playing disc golf runs across his path, and Spot chases the man and bites him. Spot is normally a very gentle dog. Are you liable for such a bite? What about if the man was harassing Spot? What if Spot was known to be a “biter” and had bitten humans before?

Non-Criminal Liability (Tort Law)

Florida law states that if your dog bites a person in a public place or in a private place where that person is lawfully—even your own house—you are liable for the damages. However, that amount could be reduced by the percentage of liability for which the person bitten is responsible. In other words, the harassing disc player might not recover full damages, but the one who was leaving Spot alone is more likely to do so. The law also specifies that people who are doing duties according to state or federal laws are protected. Therefore, your mailman is protected under this category. So, how can you reduce your own potential liability as a pet owner? One easy way that Florida law provides is to display a sign in a prominent place on your property with easily readable words that include the phrase “Bad Dog” or, more commonly, “Beware of Dog.” If you have such a sign displayed and the bite happens on your property, unless you do or do not do something that causes those damages, you are only liable to children under the age of six.

Criminal Liability

Clearly, under Florida law, you could be responsible for money damages if your dog bites someone. However, is it possible you could actually be charged criminally for your dog’s actions? Yes. If you knew that your dog was likely to bite or injure others but “recklessly” disregarded this propensity, you could be charged with a misdemeanor of the second degree. Moreover, Florida law states that if your dog has been declared “dangerous” and it subsequently bites a person or a domestic animal without being provoked, you could be charged with a misdemeanor of the first degree. If a dog previously declared dangerous causes severe injury or death to a person, you could be charged with a felony of the third degree. Furthermore, your dog will be put down after an opportunity for you to have a hearing.

Call a St. Petersburg Criminal Defense Lawyer Today for a Free Consultation

Florida’s consequences for not fulfilling your obligations in the event of a serious dog injury can be not only frustrating but also complex and expensive. If you have been involved in a situation where you are being accused or charged criminally, you should call a qualified St. Petersburg criminal law attorney right away for a free consultation. The Khonsari Law Group has the right attorneys to make sure you obtain the best outcome in the criminal justice process. Contact us today for a free, confidential consultation online or at (727) 269-5300.