A relatively new Broward County ordinance intended to prevent serious dog attacks has attracted media attention recently. The “dangerous dog” law took effect in May, but is only now controversial after becoming the subject of a lawsuit. The law says that any dog, regardless of its past brushes with the law, may be impounded if it kills or seriously harms a human or another domestic animal without provocation and off its owner’s property . Once the dog is impounded, the owner must be given written notice, and the county may euthanize the dog 10 business days after notice is served. Dog owners may request a hearing for a fee of $500 per dog.
Some dog owners whose dogs were taken away under the law sued the county, hoping to have the law overturned. However, the Miami Herald reports that they dropped the lawsuit Dec. 5 in exchange for having their dogs freed. A day before the settlement, the South Florida Sun-Sentinel ran a more in-depth article on the same law, outlining some of recent serious dog attacks in South Florida, including one that sent a 14-year-old to a trauma center for five days and another requiring more than $100,000 worth of medical care for a Hollywood man. Other dog attacks described in the articles killed or seriously injured smaller animals.
I sympathize with concerns about the new law, but as a Florida dog bite lawyer, I also know how important it is to prevent serious dog attacks. A large dog may be a pet, but it’s also a predator with teeth and claws capable of killing an adult human. In fact, statistics from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention show that dog attacks kill an average of 17 people per year in the United States, the majority of them children. When there’s no death, the results of a dog attack can include major physical trauma like nerve damage, skin loss (with lifelong scarring) and broken bones, as well as possible infection. In order to be safe around humans and other animals, these dogs must have their most violent instincts trained away or controlled by the humans responsible for them.
Florida and Broward County laws require dog owners to keep dogs on their property or leashed in public, and to warn passers-by with a sign if they have a “bad dog.” Dog owners who do this aren’t subject to the county’s dangerous dog law. If owners fail to control their dogs, and someone is killed or seriously hurt as a result, dog owners may be liable for both actions by the county and a Florida dog attack lawsuit. My firm, Cohn, Smith & Cohn, helps victims of serious dog attacks hold owners legally and financially responsible for the results. If you know someone who has been seriously hurt by a dangerous dog in South Florida and you’re interested in talking to us about your rights and your case, please contact us today for a free consultation.