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Nicoletti Walker Law Group May 11, 2015

Recently, a 4-year-old Belgian Malinois named Renzo was relieved of his canine police duties after biting a doughnut shop worker and another officer in separate incidents. Renzo was with his K9 handler in the doughnut shop parking lot when he broke away, lunged at another officer and bit him along with the worker who was nearby. These incidents are unfortunately all too common. While accidents do happen and most dog owners try their best to retrain their pets, dog bites and injuries are sometimes unavoidable.

Florida Dog Bite Law

As illustrated by Renzo, Florida defines a “dangerous dog” as any dog that has aggressively bitten or attacked someone in an unprovoked manner. Had Renzo been lunging at a suspect in the line of duty for example, or defending his human officer from harm, he would not be considered a dangerous dog. However, because he bit two people unprovoked, he was considered dangerous and therefore relieved of his K9 duties.

The state of Florida is a strict liability state when it comes to injuries sustained from dog bites. This means a dog owner is liable to a dog bite victim for damages sustained, “regardless of the former viciousness of the dog or the owners’ knowledge of such viciousness.”

Additionally, if the dog bites someone unprovoked, s/he will automatically be considered a dangerous dog. The statute does not strike a difference between civilian dogs and police K9s. Further, if a dog that has previously been declared as dangerous attacks again, the owner will be guilty of a misdemeanor of the first degree. The dog will be immediately confiscated by an animal control and thereafter destroyed in an expeditious and humane manner.

However, it is important to note that comparative (contributory) negligence also comes into play under Florida law, and “any negligence on the part of the person bitten” that had a part in the biting incident will also reduce the liability of the dog owner by the percentage that the bitten person’s negligence contributed to the biting incident. This means that it is important to adhere to safety tips at all times.

Dog Safety Tips

For pedestrians that come in contact with dogs, the Florida Department of Human Health recommends that one should never:

  • Look a dog directly in the eyes;

  • Disturb a dog that is sleeping; or

  • Approach or pet an unfamiliar dog.

Furthermore, victims are advised to seek medical attention if bitten, and report the bite to the local county health department, animal control agency, or police.

Contact a Dog-Bite Lawyer

Located in Clearwater, Florida, Mike Walker Law serves dog bite victims in Clearwater, St. Petersburg, Tampa and the surrounding area. Attorney Walker focuses on providing effective legal representation that get results for victims — like mail carriers and other service people bitten by dogs, as well as children and the elderly, who are the most common dog bite victims. If you have been injured by a dog bite, contact the office today for a free and confidential consultation.