It is rare that a serious dog bite is the first sign of aggression a dog owner has seen from his or her pet. Further, many dog bites result from provocation by children who assume all dogs are friendly. This is not always the case, and education about dog ownership and dog interaction can help prevent many dog bite injuries. However, dog owners are ultimately responsible for the behavior of their pets. Even if the behavior is unexpected or the dog was provoked, you may still be entitled to compensation for your injuries.
Florida Dog Bite Statistics and Risk Factors
- Boys between the ages of one and nine are at the highest risk for dog bite injuries, and they are also most likely to be bitten on the head or neck.
- Almost 90% of dog bites involving children happened from dogs known to the family or family-owned dogs. Random dog bites are rare.
- Many young children are bitten while unsupervised.
- Many dog bite injuries occurred in adults because they were trying to break up a dog fight.
- The most common dog bite injuries were those caused by inappropriate interaction with dogs, such as trying to interact while the dog is eating, chewing, or roughhousing.
- The second most common cause of a dog bite was protective behavior, which is when the dog feels threatened or the dog feels his owner is being threatened.
Just based on these statistics, many dog bites are avoidable with education and supervision. If children understand that they should not interact with a certain dog while he is eating or playing with his toy, they are less likely to suffering a dog bite, and if the children are being supervised, a guardian is there to direct their behavior as to how they should and should not interact with a dog. Further, choosing not to break up a dog fight unless you are trained can also prevent many Florida dog bite injuries.
Avoiding Dog Bites for Owners and Victims
A dog owner can help head off potential dog bite injuries by making sure any dog she takes home is kid tested and friendly, is spayed or neutered if it has any aggression issues, is not encouraged to play aggressively, is kept on a leash, and is trained in obedience. While some breeds of dogs are very friendly and may be safe to have off lease under normal circumstances, there is no telling what even a friendly dog may do if he is injured, provoked, or feels he is protecting you.
If you are not the dog owner but rather someone trying to prevent potential injuries, Florida recommends doing the following:
- Always supervise children
- Never approach an unfamiliar dog
- Do not run or scream around a dog
- Do not look a dog in the eyes
- Do not disturb a dog that is sleeping, eating, or caring for puppies
If a dog is acting strangely or there is a dog in your neighborhood that is constantly staining on its leash to get to a person or animal, snapping, barking, let off lease, or seems to be ill, be sure to report the dog and owner to local authorities. Even if the dog has not been violent towards anyone, these are warning signs, and local authorities may be able to give owners tips about keeping the neighborhood safe.
If you have been the victim of a dog bite, you are generally entitled to compensation in Florida. There are two types of “dog bite” laws in the United States. The first type of law is a “one free bite” law, which means that the owner of a dog who has never shown any “vicious propensities” but bites you may not be held liable for the dog’s first bite. The second type of dog bite law, which is the law in Florida, does not have this barrier, and a dog owner is liable for any injury done by his or her dog to another regardless of whether the dog had shown vicious tendencies in the past.
There are, however, some barriers and exceptions to liability. Firstly, a dog owner is only liable if you or your child was bitten on either public property or private property when you were legally permitted on the premises. So if a dog bites you in a dog park, then the owner is liable, but if your child wanders into the neighbor’s yard without permission and gets bitten by the guard dog, then your neighbors generally would not be liable for the injuries caused. There is an exception, however, if the owner places a “bad dog” sign on the property and has the dog properly fenced in or leashed so that it cannot interact with guests on the property. In this case, the owner would not be liable for a dog bite on private property, but this exception does not apply to those under the age of six or if the owner was negligent in protecting guests from the dog.
Further, Florida law takes into consideration any negligence on the part of the person who was bitten in determining how liability should be apportioned. Accordingly, if the dog was provoked to bite because your child was acting aggressively towards the dog, stealing his toys, or pulling his tail, then you may be considered partially liable for provoking him. As an example, if the child walks up to an otherwise friendly dog from behind, jumps on him, and hurts him, and the dog bites the child in response, it is not likely that the dog owner would be held substantially liable for this incident.
Common Dog Bite Injuries and Illnesses
Contact a Clearwater Dog Bite Attorney Today
800 North Belcher Road
Clearwater, FL 33765