A dog can be your best friend. But children who are raised with a family dog may simply assume all dogs are like the golden retrievers they see on television may not understand that every dog owner isn't as responsible as their parents are. While responsible dog owners know their dogs and with whom they can interact, many dog owners may not be bothered to monitor their dogs or take preventative actions if they have an aggressive breed. However, dogs are not human, and ultimately even the friendliest dog can have an aggressive reaction to negative stimuli, such as a pulled tail. As such, it is your responsibility as a parent or guardian to teach your children safety around all dogs, especially unfamiliar and aggressive breeds.
Florida Dog Bite Law
There are generally 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” and 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, such as striking the dog or pulling his tail, then you may be considered partially liable due to the provocation. 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
Unfortunately, leaving children and toddlers unattended when interacting with dogs is one of the most dangerous and leading causes of dog bite injuries in the United States. The most common dog bite injuries are flesh wounds to the arms and legs, and such wounds can cause severe scarring, tendon, and nerve damage. The most serious injuries result if a child is “mauled,” meaning that the child is bitten multiple times during an extensive dog attack, as opposed to enduring a single “protective bite” from an otherwise unaggressive animal. Either way, such a bite can result in serious infection, as dogs carry a multitude of bacteria in their mouths. Such infections and viruses include rabies, which is transmitted from dogs to humans through saliva and can be fatal in many cases as it can quickly reach the brain.
Safety Protocol for Children
As a parent, whether you intend for your child to interact with dogs or not, it is important to teach them the following safety measures, even with otherwise friendly dogs:
Do not pet a dog from behind or without the dog being aware of your presence;
- Do not go “face-to-face” with a dog, especially an unknown dog;
- Do not tease a dog;
- Do not startle a sleeping dog;
- Do not bother a dog when he is eating or playing with a toy;
- Do not approach a dog who is caring for or carrying puppies;
- Do not turn your back on an aggressive dog and run away; and
- Do not provoke a dog in any way.
If your child is attacked, however, there are certain safety measures that he or she should be taught. For example, the child should not scream and run away as many of us tend to do, as loud noises and running may provoke the dog to further action or scare him into another attack. You should remain motionless and avoid eye contact with the dog, and if you are pushed to the ground, as is common with small children and larger dogs, the child should curl in a ball and cover his or her ears and head without screaming or rolling around. This indicates to the dog that you have surrendered and are not a danger to the animal.
Although it is reported that some breeds, such as pit bull terriers, are more likely to attack a stranger from a distance than others, most dog bites occur either in your home or the home of a family member or friend. In this case, many dog bites can be prevented if parents are watching their children to ensure that the dog is not provoked and the dog owner is taking precautions to ensure that a dog with potentially dangerous tendencies, such as an unneutered male dog, is not getting aggressive. There are some circumstances where a serious dog bite can lead to child neglect charges, especially if a parent was not paying attention to a child interacting with a dangerous dog or the parent kept a dog in the house he or she knew was dangerous and allowed that dog access to the child.
Contact a Clearwater Dog Bite Attorney Today
If a Florida dog has injured you or a loved one, it is important to contact a Florida dog bite lawyers in your area today. The Dolman Law Group Accident Injury Lawyers, PA has the experience you need to analyze your Florida dog bite case to determine the extent of liability. Let them get you the compensation you deserve after a traumatic dog bite. Call them today at 727-451-6900 for a free, no-risk consultation.