The Dog Bite Law & Dangerous Dog Statute in Florida

October 7, 2021 Criminal Defense

What Does the Statute Say?

 If you are a dog owner in Florida, it is imperative you are aware of the serious legal repercussions that can occur if your dog bites someone else. The laws pertaining to dog bites are codified in Section 767.04 of the Florida Statutes and states:

“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.”

When it comes to dog bites, Florida is a “strict liability” state, meaning that the owner can be held liable for their dog biting someone even if they were not aware that dog was aggressive. In addition, the owner does not need to be negligent in order face legal sanctions.

Defenses to A Dog Bite Claim

According to the statute, a dog owner can assert the following defenses to a dog bite claim:


The claim can only be asserted if the person bitten is unlawfully on the property of the owner. This means the person is not on the property in the performance of any duty imposed by him or her by the laws of the state, laws, or postal regulations of the United States, or the person is not on the property upon invitation, expressed or implied, of the owner.

Comparative negligence

Any negligence on the part of the person bitten that is the 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.

The presence of a sign that reads “Bad Dog”

The owner is not liable, except to a child under 6 years old, if at the time of the dog bite the owner had displayed an easily readable sign including the words “Bad Dog” in a prominent place on his or her premises.

How Long Can I File a Lawsuit?

A dog bite lawsuit would be categorized as a personal injury lawsuit, codified in Section 95.11 of the Florida Statutes. The statute of limitations permits you to file your lawsuit within four years from the day the injury occurred, and civil remedies may be awarded.

Florida’s Dangerous Dog Statute – Where Criminal Law Comes into Play

Chapter 767 Part II of the Florida Statutes codifies Florida’s Dangerous Dog Act. Under Section 767.11, a “dangerous dog” means any dog that, according to the records of the appropriate authority,:

  1. Has aggressively bitten, attacked, or endangered or has inflicted severe injury on a human being on public or private property;
  2. Has more than once severely injured or killed a domestic animal while off the owner’s property; or
  3. Has, when unprovoked, chased or approached a person upon the streets, sidewalks, or any public grounds in a menacing fashion or apparent attitude of attack, provided that such actions are attested to in a sworn statement by one or more persons and dutifully investigated by the appropriate authority.

For a dog to be classified as dangerous, an animal control authority shall investigate reported incidents involving any dog that is dangerous, and, if possible, shall interview the owner and require a sworn affidavit from any person, including any animal control officer or enforcement officer, desiring to have a dog classified as dangerous.

Under Section 767.13, a dog owner may be charged with a first-degree misdemeanor, punishable by up to one year imprisonment and a fine of $1,000 if a dog that has been declared dangerous attacks or bites a person or a domestic animal without provocation.  If a dog that has previously been declared dangerous attacks and causes severe injury to or death of any human, the owner is guilty of a felony of the third-degree, punishable by up to five years imprisonment and a fine of $5,000. If either instance occurs, the dog may not be euthanized if the owner files an appeal and the appeal is pending. Furthermore, if a dog attacks a person who is engaged in or attempting to engage in a criminal activity at the time of the attack, the owner is not guilty of any crime.

Under Section 767.135, if a dog has not been declared dangerous attacks and causes the death of a human, that dog will be confiscated by an animal control authority and may not be euthanized if the owner files an appeal and it is pending. However, no criminal sanctions follow. Under Section 767.136, if a dog that has been declared dangerous and causes severe injury to, or the death of, a human, and the owner of the dog had knowledge of the dog’s dangerous propensities yet demonstrated a reckless disregard for such propensities under the circumstances, the owner of the dog will be found guilty of a second-degree misdemeanor, punishable by up to 60 days imprisonment and a fine of $500. In this event, it is critical to consult with an experienced criminal defense attorney

It is also important to note that local government may adopt an ordinance to address the safety and welfare concerns caused by attacks on people or domestic animals, placing further restrictions or additional requirements on dog owners who have bitten or attacked others.

 This article was written by Sarah Kamide

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