National Dog Bite Awareness Week: June 5 To 11
National Dog Bite Awareness Week was Sunday, June 5, through Saturday, June 11, 2022, and although it focused on postal workers’ safety, it’s important that every dog owner know Florida’s liability laws when it comes to dog ownership.
Florida’s dog bite statute, which can be found at Florida Statutes section 767.04, states the following:
“Dog owner’s liability for damages to persons bitten.—The owner of any dog that bites any person while such person is on or in a public place, or lawfully on or in a private place, including the property of the owner of the dog, is liable for damages suffered by persons bitten, regardless of the former viciousness of the dog or the owners’ knowledge of such viciousness.”
This means that dog owners are liable for any injuries sustained from their dog biting another human, whether it’s in public or lawfully on private property (i.e. not trespassing). This includes gardeners, postal workers and anyone else with permission to be on your property. The law goes on:
“However, any negligence on the part of the person bitten that is a proximate cause of the biting incident reduces the liability of the owner of the dog by the percentage that the bitten person’s negligence contributed to the biting incident. A person is lawfully upon private property of such owner within the meaning of this act when the person is on such property in the performance of any duty imposed upon him or her by the laws of this state or by the laws or postal regulations of the United States, or when the person is on such property upon invitation, expressed or implied, of the owner.”
This takes into consideration negligence on the part of the person bitten, meaning a percentage of any damages may fall upon the person bitten and be subtracted from the owner’s liability. And finally, the law concludes:
“However, the owner is not liable, except as to a person under the age of 6, or unless the damages are proximately caused by a negligent act or omission of the owner, if at the time of any such injury the owner had displayed in a prominent place on his or her premises a sign easily readable including the words “Bad Dog.” The remedy provided by this section is in addition to and cumulative with any other remedy provided by statute or common law.”
If you have a “Bad Dog” sign clearly posted and you’ve done everything to safely secure your pup, you may be off the hook unless the person bitten is under the age of 6.
Furthermore, Florida is a “strict liability” state which means a Florida dog owner may be held liable if their dog bites someone, even if it’s the first time the dog has ever lashed out. Section 767.04 specifically states that the dog owner is “liable for damages suffered by persons bitten, regardless of the former viciousness of the dog or the owners’ knowledge of such viciousness.”
In summation, there are three potential defenses to a dog bite claim:
- If the person bitten was trespassing
- Comparative negligence (the plaintiff was being negligent)
- If an explicit “Bad Dog”-type sign is posted*
*Remember that such a sign won’t protect an owner if the dog bite victim is under six years of age, or if the owner was negligent in connection with the incident.
Unfortunately, any dog may bite, even if they have never shown signs of aggression before. Therefore, responsible dog ownership is key. The best way to keep everyone safe from dog bites is to promote responsible pet ownership and be aware of the laws that go along with it.