Dangerous Dogs and Personal Injuries
A baby’s mauling in Virginia has sparked discussion about the legality of certain wolfdog hybrids in the United States, including Florida. As reported by News4Jax, an eight-day-old baby in Virginia was found in her crib bloodied and dead, with the family’s dog standing over her. Authorities believe the dog mauled the child, leading to her death.
Legal in Florida
Although wolfdog hybrids are illegal in 15 states, Florida is not one of them. In fact, wolfdogs are for sale every day in Florida. You only need to register your wolfdog hybrid as Class II Wildlife if it is substantially similar in behavior, size, and other characteristics as a wolf. As a practical matter, most hybrids probably are not registered because their owners identify sufficient differences between the hybrid and wild wolves.
Wolfdog hybrids are incredibly strong and pose a danger to the public whether their owners register them or not. While biting, a wolfdog can apply up to 406 pounds of pressure every square inch, which is almost double the pressure of a pit bull. As a result, wolfdogs can easily crush limbs and even kill their victims.
One problem owners face is how to protect the public from their animals. Because the dog is dangerous, owners might be tempted to pen in the animal or use a leash to tie it to a tree. Unfortunately, this type of restraint is counterproductive and can cause the animal to become even more dangerous. Instead, wolf-dogs need room to roam and constant attention. Very few people are likely to be able to raise one properly, so they are not ideal pets.
Strict Liability for Dog Bites
Owners in Florida are strictly liable when their dogs bite someone in a public place or on private property if the victim has a legal right to be there. Generally, permission to step on the property can be given explicitly or implicitly. For example, Michael visits his friend Jonah, who has a dog. While visiting, Michael is bitten. Because Michael has implicit permission to visit his friend at home, Jonah is strictly liable for the dog bite, meaning he can’t argue that he shouldn’t be liable because he was sufficiently careful.
Furthermore, the owner is legally liable regardless of whether the dog has bitten someone before or whether the owner knows or suspects that the dog is dangerous. There is no requirement that the owner know a dog as a propensity to bite.
However, if the owner has a sign on the property warning “Bad Dog,” then he or she is not strictly liable. Instead, the owner is liable only if the victim can show they had a legal right to be on the property and that the dog owner was negligent. For example, an owner might not have properly restrained the dog or trained it, which could qualify as negligence.
Attacked by a Dog? Help is Available
At Earnhart Law, our team has handled some of the toughest dog bite cases in Florida, and we are here to help you. Our team provides caring legal guidance to all accident victims struggling to put their lives back together. To learn more about what legal services we offer, schedule a free consultation today.