The Sun-Sentinel reported last week on a Deerfield dog attack that left an eight-year old boy hospitalized. The young victim, Nicholas Garvey was apparently riding his bike near his house in Deerfield Beach last weekend when has was attacked by a pit bull loose in the neighborhood. The frightened child ran to his playmate’s home, where the animal was finally beaten off by an adult. Nicholas was taken to a nearby hospital where he was treated for a broken arm, deep cuts to his face, and limb wombs. His facial wounds required thirty stitches.
This latest incident was actually the second Deerfield dog attack within the month. In early October a thirteen year old girl, Tayla Johnson, was also attack by a dog in the neighborhood. While it remains unclear, witnesses explained that they thought the attacking dog was also a pit bull. Fortunately, a neighbor was nearby when that attack occurred. The bystander was able to get the aggressive animal off the girl, but the dog was killed in the process.
The string of animal attacks has led to renewed debate in the area about the most effective way to prevent these incidents. Miami-Dade County actually has a local ordinance in place banning American pit bull terriers, Staffordshire bull terriers, and a few similar breeds. Florida law currently does not allow breed bans, but the Miami-Dade ordinance was in place before the statewide prohibition of those local ordinances took effect. Some community members believe that these latest attacks indicate a need to have even stricter laws prohibiting breeds, while others believe that breed itself is not at fault. Instead, most understand that responsible dog ownership is essential to prevent all dog attacks, regardless of the type of dog involved.
Florida dog bite law requires dog owners take significant responsibility for the conduct of their animals. The state’s dog bite statute places “strict liability” on owners for the consequences of their animal’s actions. This generally means that an owner may be required to pay for the damages caused by their dog, even if the owner did not known of the animals viciousness or if the dog had no history at all of attacking others. However, if the specific person hurt was negligent or trespassing, then the owner may have no liability or the liability may be decreased. The rules are slightly different if children under the age of six are involved. At times, a parent’s failure to supervise a child leading to an attack may be a factor in any legal case related to the attack. In addition, there are different legal considerations depending on where the attack occurred. Landlords may be liable for attacks that occurred on their premises, even if the dog is owned by a tenant. However, that liability often depends on whether the victim was invited onto the premises and was hurt in a location where he or she was allowed to be.
Various other details about each specific incident may affect the ultimate legal resolution. The complexity of these matters makes it important for those involved to contact a Florida dog bite attorney to learn about their own rights and responsibilities.
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