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One Florida County Is Calling for Better Dog-Bite Laws

On behalf of Terence Gross of Gross & Schuster, P.A. posted in Dog Bites on Wednesday, December 29, 2010.

Dog bites are unfortunately common in Florida. We posted recently that over 500 Floridians are hospitalized each year after being bitten by a dog. Not all dog attacks have equal causes or equal victims, however, and this can lead to confusion over who is held responsible. Two recent cases from Broward County show the need for clearer dog-bite laws.

Two dogs named Brandi and Gigi have gotten a lot of media attention recently. They were each involved in an incident where they fought and killed a smaller dog. No humans were hurt, but due to the aggressive attacks both dogs were set to be euthanized. Community members questioned the need for euthanasia, and public support for the two dogs eventually resulted in a pardon.

Broward County, like many others, has strict laws which mandate that a dangerous dog should be euthanized after just one attack. These incidents have made officials reexamine this law and wonder if clearer guidelines need to be put in place. They also wonder why a dog’s owner should not be held more accountable.

Dogs attack for a variety of reasons. Some dogs have been trained to fight, while others are aggressive because they were not neutered or spayed. In both cases, the owner made a decision which contributed to the dog becoming aggressive.

Another example in which an owner could be deemed more liable is when he fails to restrain his dog. If the owner knows that his dog is aggressive, he must take all reasonable steps to keep the dog in his own yard and/or leashed and muzzled. If he fails to do so, he could be held responsible for any attacks which occur as a result.

Places like South Beach County have clearer, more effective dog-bite laws which could serve as a model for similar legislation. The owners of dangerous dogs in South Beach County are subject to fines and criminal charges when they fail to control their dogs.

Dogs usually make great pets and loyal companions, but it is important to remember that they still have animal instincts. When people choose to own dogs, they must also assume the potential dangers that come with it.

Source: The Sun Sentinel online, “Who should be punished more when a dog bites: the dog or the owner?” December 27, 2010

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