When Dogs Attack: Florida dog attack laws and what to expect if your dog is labeled dangerous
Has your dog been labeled aggressive? Even the sweetest, well-trained dog can be triggered to act out with aggression. Triggers for aggressive acts can vary greatly and can even be difficult for a dog owner to predict or prevent, but knowing your dog and giving them proper training and socialization goes a long way in setting them up for success.
Why do dogs attack?
Toy aggression, lack of socialization, restraint frustration, and owner protection are just some of the many things that can cause your dog to lash out. We encourage pet owners to not let the fear of potential issues stop them from setting up puppy play dates with other well-behaved dogs or taking them on walks through town, but we do want pet owners to be prepared in the instance one of these unfortunate situations occur.
Preventing dog attacks
Miami-Dade County has strict leash laws, so in most social situations an owner should have control of their pups. However, there are moments at the dog park, in our backyards, at the dog beach, and other loose leash outing where aggression can rear its ugly head. In most instances a dog’s aggressive behavior can be rationalized by some negative trigger that occurred in the moments prior to the attack and in those instances owners in both parties address the issue, remove the dogs, check for injuries, and move on. However, if the incident is severe enough, further action may be taken or even required by law.
What happens when a dog bites another dog?
In Florida, the owner of the dog that bites another dog or person is held fully responsible. A percentage of that responsibility will be waived if the victim was partially responsible for provoking the attack. Dog bite complaints must be reported to animal services within 30 days of the incident to be open for investigation. If the dog is found to have aggressively bitten, attacked, severely injured, or chased a human or domestic animal without being provoked, it may be declared a “dangerous animal”.
Dangerous dogs in Miami-Dade County can be reported by calling 3-1-1.
Any complaint on a dog that is filed goes under investigation by Miami-Dade Animal Services. Miami-Dade Animal Services will question the owner and any person(s) involved and visit the owners’ property. During investigation the dog may or may not be confiscated, depending on the severity of the attack and the likelihood the dog could attack again. If a confiscation does occur, the dog will be taken into Animal Services’ care where it will be monitored and held throughout the entirety of the investigation.
If Animal Services declares a dog as dangerous, a written notification must be sent to the dog owner. If the owner wishes to request a hearing, they must submit a written request within seven days. A hearing will be held as soon as possible, typically within 21 days. At the end of investigation or hearing, if the dog is deemed dangerous, the dog will either be returned to the owner and registered annually as a dangerous dog or it will be humanely euthanized if it is considered too dangerous.
My dog has been declared dangerous, now what?
Once an animal is declared dangerous, if euthanization is not issued, the owner has 14 days to register their dog to Animal Service and they must continue to register their dog annually. For first time and annual registration the owner must provide a number of documentations and picture evidence to prove the dog is legal and secure. You will need:
- Proof of current rabies vaccination
- Proof of current Miami-Dade County tags
- Proof of microchip and registration of microchip
- Proof of sterilization
- Photos of the dog’s enclosure
- Photos of all entry points, showing proper warning signs of a dangerous dog on site
When is your dog not considered dangerous in Florida:
A dog will not be considered a dangerous dog if the attack was fully provoked by the victim or another dog. Also, a dog will not be considered dangerous if it was protecting itself, a human, or if someone was unlawfully trespassing on the property the dog resides. A dog can only be considered dangerous if it attacks a human or another domestic animal; wildlife does not count.
We often get dogs to not only be our companions but to be our defenders and protectors. These are instincts that often come very naturally to them and unfortunately, they are instincts that can lead them to negative interactions when provoked. As good pet owners, it is our responsibility to limit these negative interactions and opportunities for our dogs to lash out. Keep a watchful eye on your dog, follow the leash laws, provide your dog with adequate exercise, socialize your dog frequently, and provide your dog with the best training possible!
For Further Reading:
A founding member of the Equipaws family, Frankie can mostly be found working behind the scenes, helping co-create online branding, managing several social media accounts, designing brand collateral, writing copy, and managing events. She also fills in for pet sitters and dog walkers when needed in Palmetto Bay, Pinecrest, and South Miami. Her own small pack consists of Boots the Shih Tzu mix and Nutmeg the Chiweenie.