A bill recently signed into law by Governor Rick Scott will give authorities in Florida greater discretion in dealing with dogs who have attacked a human and caused serious injuries. The law was written in response to the story of Padi, a dog in Manatee County who had bitten off part of a young child’s ear.
It was determined that the dog had bitten the child in self-defense after the child lunged at the dog, but Florida’s previous laws required authorities to euthanize the dog regardless of the reason for the bite. As news of the incident spread, outrage grew at the mandatory death sentence the dog was given. A judge found that the statute was unconstitutional, and Padi’s life was spared.
The new statute, filed by Representative Greg Steube, allows hearing officers to consider the circumstances of any bite or attack when deciding whether to euthanize animals. Dogs, like humans, can now be treated less harshly by the law when they act out of self-defense, even if serious injury occurred.
This law does not, however, change the responsibilities of dog owners or the rights of those who have been attacked. Dog owners in Florida are generally liable for attacks against humans occurring in public places or in any private place unless the victim is trespassing. This means that victims of bites and attacks are typically able to bring a personal injury lawsuit against the owner of the dog who attacked them. In these cases, it is often possible to recover compensation for the costs associated with medical expenses, lost wages and physical therapy. Additional compensation may be awarded for a victim’s pain, suffering and mental anguish.
If you or a loved one has been the victim of an animal attack, you may have rights under Florida law. To learn about your legal options, consult the experienced dog bite attorneys at the Bradenton firm of Shapiro, Goldman, Babboni & Walsh.