In Florida, a dog owner is legally responsible for the dog’s behavior, especially if the dog harms another person. In a recent incident, a Riviera Beach resident was in the process of being pursued and arrested by police and ordered his Pitt Bull to attack the arresting officer. The dog, possibly confused by the command, bit his owner in the buttocks instead. The man was arrested and charged with both resisting arrest and aggravated assault against the officer.

Had the dog actually obeyed the owner and bitten the police officer, there could have been a much different ending to the story. In many cases, police officers who are startled by dogs react by shooting them. While homeowners have the right to protect their property and family with a dog, there are strict regulations governing the dog owner’s responsibilities to keep humans safe from a dog’s vicious behavior.

Florida’s dog bit statute specifies that a dog’s owner is wholly responsible for biting a person who is legally on their property, as long as the bite victim was not doing anything to actively or intentionally provoke the dog. The police officer in the above story falls into the category of one who was mandated to be on the property by law, as would a firefighter, a paramedic or a postman. The dog owner is responsible for the damage from a dog bite, whether or not the owner believed the dog was vicious or had any evidence that the dog had bitten in the past.

A dog owner is not liable — unless the victim is under the age of six — if the owner displays a sign that says “bad dog” in a clear and prominent place. In some cases the liability may be shared between the dog owner and the victim if the victim was negligent or actively provoked the dog.

If a dog bites a person, the dog owner has an obligation to notify the authorities and have the dog checked and quarantined for rabies. In most cases the dog can be quarantined inside the owner’s home.

Dog ownership comes with many responsibilities, especially when owning a breed known for vicious or highly protective behavior. It is essential that dog owners be held liable for their dogs’ behavior. A dog bite victim can play an important role in enforcing dog bite laws in Florida by reporting biting incidents to local authorities.

If you have been bitten by a dog, speak to a dog bite attorney at Lytal, Reiter, Smith, Ivy & Fronrath. We are dedicated to keeping dog owners responsible for the behavior of their pets. Call our West Palm Beach office at 561-655-1990 or contact us online to schedule a consultation.