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Is your FIDO (a.k.a. man’s best friend) a liability to you and your family?

Under current Florida law, the owner of a dog that bites any person while in a public place or lawfully on private property, is liable for damages suffered by the person bitten. Florida Statute, Section 767.04 (1997). This is what we call ‘strict liability’. It doesn’t matter if your dog was or wasn’t vicious or if you had previous knowledge of the dog’s propensity to bite. A possible exception to this law arises when the bitten or injured claimant provoked the dog into bitting. The acts of provoking the dog fall within the well known defense of comparative negligence and the claimant’s damages would be reduced based on his/her percentage of fault.

If you are dealing with the results of your dog biting someone or you have been bitten by a dog, consider the dog’s posture when determining whether the dog was acting defensively (out of fear) or acting in an unreasonably aggressive manner. It is perfectly normal for a dog to bark from time to time. However, if the dog’s tail is high and ears are up and forward, he/she is in protection mode. If the tail is low and ears are back, the dog is frightened. The tail might be wagging, and we all know what that means…free pets for all!

For those of you in Okaloosa County, we have an Ordinance that states the following:

Chapter 5: Animals and Fowl, Article II: Animal Control, Sec. 5-26. Bad dog; bad cat.

1. (a) It shall be unlawful and a civil infraction for the owner or custodian of any dog or cat to permit it to bite, inflict injury upon, or otherwise attack a person or another animal without provocation. Any dog or cat which attacks and bites a person or another animal without provocation shall be deemed a “bad dog” or “bad cat” and the owner or custodian of such animal shall be issued a citation for violation of this section, punishable by a fine of $100.00.

(b) It shall be unlawful and a civil infraction for any dog or cat, when unprovoked, to approach or chase any person in an apparent attitude of attack or in a vicious or terrorizing manner. Such dog or cat shall be deemed a “bad dog” or “bad cat.”

(Ord. No. 92-25, § 6, 11-3-92; Ord. No. 93-46, § 2, 10-12-93)

Sec. 5-27. Dangerous dogs.

(d) The owner of a dog classified as dangerous must confine the dog in a securely fenced or enclosed area pending resolution of any appeal. If the owner fails to confine the animal, it shall be seized by the animal control agency and impounded in the animal shelter at the owner’s expense pending resolution of the appeal.

(Ord. No. 92-25, § 7, 11-3-92)

Teach your kids the proper way to approach a dog before petting.

  2. If the owner says it is okay. Place your hand (back side) in a loose fist and in front of the dog’s nose. Allow him/her to tell you it is okay to pet him/her.
  3. After the dog has sniffed your hand, pay attention to the dog’s posture (see above).
  4. If everything thing appears normal, slowly pet the dog.
  5. If this is the first time that you have met the dog, DO NOT place your face near the dog’s head.
  6. Always remember, watch the dog’s poster and do not make any sudden movements to scare the animal.

Here is another good source of information on petting dogs.

If you have been bitten by a dog and you want to know more about your rights and remedies, please contact the law firm of Brannon & Brannon at 850-863-5297 or visit our If you need help, Brannon Can Help!




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Father And Son Team Working Together To Serve Our Clients

Our legal team consists of attorney Wm. Dennis Brannon and his son C. Paul Brannon. We work together as a father and son team to provide our clients with exceptional service and solutions in motor vehicle accident claims and other personal injury matters.
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