Local Animal Control
Most counties have established local rules on dog bite matters, as well as enacted specialized enforcement through Animal Control Services. In Southwest Florida, for example, our counties have ordinances which govern domestic animals, including dogs: • Lee County Ordinance #09-20 • Collier County Ordinance No. 2008-51 • Charlotte County Ordinance Nos. 98-70 and 2006-062 • Sarasota County Ordinance Ch. 14 • Manatee County Ordinance No. 06-18, § 1, 3-14-06 These county ordinances are laws which are in addition to Florida law.
Florida Dog Bite Liability
These county laws are in addition to the liability imposed upon a dog owner for a dog bite injury under Florida law Fla. Stat. §§767.01, 767.04, 767.11-13. Florida law imposes strict liability on the dog owner for a dog bite: "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. However, any negligence on the part of the person bitten that is a 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." Accordingly, a dog owner can be liable for a dog bite injury regardless of whether the dog had ever bitten someone before.
Dog Owner's Defense
While a dog bite can impose liability on the dog owner, there is the provision in the dog bite law listed above which allows the dog owner's liability to be reduced by any comparative negligence of the dog bite victim. Comparative fault on the part of the dog bite victim can come in the form of: provoking the dog, trespassing, or in some other way being negligent.