Florida Dog Bite Laws

Created by FindLaw's team of attorney writers and editors.

Our dogs are part of our families so it can be easy to forget that they're really animals and not people. When something sets them off, your cuddly ball of fur may go all Rambo on you and attack or bite someone. While your dog's behavior may be unexpected or perhaps provoked, as a Floridian you are strictly liable for any damage or injury caused. You may be able to reduce your liability if the person bitten was negligent in causing the biting incident, but most likely you'll be liable for some or all of the injury.

In addition to civil liabilities, dog owners can also be subjected to criminal penalties, especially if your dog is considered a dangerous animal. If your dog has previously attacked someone, it may have been declared a dangerous dog and criminal penalties are more likely to apply. However, even if your dog hasn't been previously declared dangerous, you may still be criminally liable if the attack is considered severe. Most of the time these criminal charges will be misdemeanors, but felony charges may apply in cases of serious injury or death.

Florida Dog Bite Laws: The Basics

The chart below provides you with a plain language summary of the statutes that comprise Florida's dog bite laws, with links to important code sections.

Statutes

Florida Statutes, Title XLV (Torts):

  • Section 767.01 (dog owner's liability)
  • Section 767.04 (liability for dog bites)
  • Section 767.11 (definitions)
  • Section 767.13 (attack or bite by dangerous dog)
  • Section 767.135 (attack or bite by unclassified dog that causes death)
  • Section 767.136 (attack or bite by unclassified dog that causes severe injury)

Dog Bite Liability

Liability for Dog Bites

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.

Lawfully Upon Private Property

A person is lawfully upon private property of such owner within the meaning of this act when the person is on such property in the performance of any duty imposed upon him or her by the laws of this state or by the laws or postal regulations of the United States, or when the person is on such property upon invitation, expressed or implied, of the owner.

Dangerous Dog

A dog in Florida is deemed "dangerous" when any of the following apply:

  • It has previously determined to be dangerous; or
  • It has aggressively bitten, attacked, endangered, or inflicted severe injury; or
  • It has, when unprovoked, chased or menaced a person on any public areas (streets, sidewalks, parks, etc.)

Exceptions to Liability

You may not be liable for dog bites in Florida if any of the following apply:

  • You display a "Bad Dog" sign (this doesn't relieve you of liability for victims under age 6)
  • The dog is owned, or in the service of a law enforcement agency
  • The dog is used as a service dog.
  • The dog is a hunting dog
  • The dog was engaged in legal dog training or exhibitions

Possible Penalties and Sentencing

Civil Liabilities:

  • Owner liable for all damages suffered; and/or
  • Criminal penalties may apply

Criminal Penalties - Previously determined dangerous dog bites or attacks:

  • First Degree Misdemeanor: Up to 1-year imprisonment
  • Confiscation and destruction of dog
  • Dog owner pays all boarding costs and fees

Criminal Penalties - Previously determined dangerous dog causes severe injury or death

  • Third Degree Felony: Up to 5 years imprisonment

Criminal Penalties - Dog not previously determined dangerous causes severe injury or death

  • Confiscation and destruction of dog

Criminal Penalties - If owner had knew of dog's dangerous propensities

  • Second Degree Misdemeanor: Up to 60 days imprisonment
  • Fine $500

Possible Defenses

  • The person bitten was negligent;
  • The person bitten was trespassing;
  • The person bitten was engaged in criminal activity; or
  • The dog was provoked.

Note: State laws are always subject to change through the passage of new legislation, rulings in the higher courts (including federal decisions), ballot initiatives, and other means. While we strive to provide the most current information available, please consult an attorney or conduct your own legal research to verify the state law(s) you are researching.

Related Resources

Get a Legal Review of Your Florida Dog Bite Situation

If you've been bitten by a dog, the first thing you should do -- after getting the contact information of the owner (if nearby) -- is seek medical attention. Since the owner of a dog that bites you can be strictly liable for your injuries, you may not have to prove negligence. Get started on recovering for damages for the dog bite today by having a personal injury attorney in Florida review your case.

Next Steps: Search for a Local Attorney

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