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New Florida Dog Bite Law Garners Support, Opposition

A dog named Padi from Bradenton has raised controversy related to dog bite laws in Florida. In June of 2015, Padi, a black Labrador, allegedly bit a child’s ear and now awaits euthanasia as a result.

Specifics of the Case

From the time of the incident, Padi’s owners did not receive an opportunity to defend Padi or to speak to the circumstances surrounding the bite, in compliance with Florida law. Additionally, the incident has brought to light what some see as a lack of nuance in dog bite law: if one’s dog bites a person, even a trespassing burglar, with enough severity, the dog is eligible for euthanasia and will need to go before a judge for a determination of its fate. Believing that this law is unconstitutional as it does not afford an owner an opportunity to defend his or her pet and additionally that it defies the reasonable purpose of having a dog for protection from lawbreakers, Representative Greg Steube in Sarasota has proposed new dog bite legislation.

The new provisions purportedly will institute a hearing prior to a judge ruling on a dog’s fate, giving the owner an opportunity to explain the circumstances leading up to the incident. Further, the law is poised to make some exceptions to the strict policy of addressing dog bites with mandatory euthanasia- if the dog’s owner is able to prove at the hearing that his or her dog was protecting itself, its owner, or its owner’s family, or that the person who sustained injury from the dog’s bite was trespassing, the dog would be protected from euthanasia.

Representative Steube, in backing the bill, allegedly stated that he believed most people were unaware that the law regarding the euthanasia of dogs that bite human beings was so strict, and that he believes the lack of consideration of the circumstances of the bite to be absurd. Dog owners purportedly support the bill on the whole, advocating for an opportunity to be heard on their individualized circumstances if their dogs become the subject of a legal proceeding. Challengers, however, allegedly point to a wider belief that good public policy dictates that dogs cannot and should not be permitted to inflict injuries upon people severe enough to require stitches or reconstructive surgery, the threshold for euthanasia currently in place.

Representative Steube reportedly hopes to have his pending legislation on Governor Rick Scott’s desk by January. Meanwhile, Padi the Labrador’s case has been escalated to an appeals court to await a ruling on the constitutionality of the existing dog bite statute. Should the statute be ruled unconstitutional, due to the owners’ lack of opportunity to be heard or for some other reason, Padi, who is currently kept under strict house arrest, will be freed and not subject to euthanasia.

Contact Our Lawyers for Legal Assistance

Dog bite law is a rather specific area of law. If you are involved in a dog bite dispute, an lawyer can assist you in filing or defending your claim. However, not every lawyer is experienced in handling dog bite cases. If you have a dog bite claim or one has been brought against your dog, contact Barbas, Nunez, Sanders, Butler & Hovsepian, Lawyers and Counselors at Law in Tampa Bay. Call toll-free at 1 (800) 227-2275 for a consultation today.

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