Florida Leash Laws and Dog Bite Laws January 10, 2018 Dog owners in our state have a responsibility to maintain control of their dogs, particularly if their pet meets the definition of a “dangerous dog” as set forth in Chapter 767 of the Florida Statutes. On local levels, most counties in the state have leash laws to help keep people and other animals safe from uncontrolled dogs that may become aggressive, but there are no Florida-wide leash laws. Although city or county leash laws do not absolve a dog owner of legal responsibility if his or her dog bites someone while leashed, adhering to leash laws is an important part of a community’s efforts to keep people and other pets safe. In this article, we’ll look at leash laws in our area, as well as some of the particulars of dog ownership laws in Florida. North Florida County Leash Laws These are some of the dog laws in effect in several North Florida counties: Duval County: Section 462.303 of the City of Jacksonville’s municipal code states that “No owner or person having temporary custody of any animal(s) shall permit the animal(s) or fail to restrain the animal(s) from being at-large.” Exceptions include dogs performing law enforcement duties, engaged in legal hunting or training procedures, or in designated off-leash dog parks. Violators are subject to civil fines. Nassau County: Section 6-45 of the county’s code of laws and ordinances requires that all animals be kept under restraint, and “each owner shall exercise proper care and control of his animals to prevent them from becoming a public nuisance.” Clay County: Section 4-22 of the Clay County Animal Control Ordinance states that it is unlawful to willfully or negligently allow dogs to run at large on any private or public property. If an animal has been declared by the county’s Animal Control authorities to be “fierce” or “dangerous,” the animal’s keeper or owner must secure, restrain, or confine it. Owners of dangerous dogs must also complete an animal obedience class. St. Johns County: The St. Johns County Division of Animal Control web page outlines the county’s Leash and Dangerous Law for dogs and cats and links to the county ordinances that govern animal ownership. The law states that the owner of an animal must ensure that it does not run at large or stray onto public property, which includes beaches. If an owner violates the county’s ordinances three or more times, he or she may be required to install electronic fencing, zip lines, corrals or other physical restraints. Should an owner not exercise sufficient care and control of his or animal and it becomes a public nuisance, “the owner or possessor shall be in violation of this ordinance, regardless of knowledge, intent, or culpability.” Those with dogs deemed aggressive may be required to obtain additional insurance coverage. How An Experienced Dog Bite Attorney Can Help You. Unlike leash laws, Florida dog bite laws apply across the state to all residents. Section 767.04 of the Florida Statutes makes it clear that “the owner of any dog that bites any person while such person is on or in a public place, or lawfully on or in a private place, including the property of the owner of the dog, is liable for damages suffered by persons bitten, regardless of the former viciousness of the dog or the owners’ knowledge of such viciousness.” However, the statute also states that “any negligence on the part of the person bitten that is a proximate cause of the biting incident reduces the liability of the owner of the dog by the percentage that the bitten person’s negligence contributed to the biting incident.” These distinctions mean that any dog bite case can be complex, so it’s important to consult with a qualified dog bite lawyer if you have been injured by a dangerous animal. At Harrell & Harrell, P.A., our expert personal injury attorneys are ready to support your right to pursue compensation for your injuries and for related future damages. If you’ve been injured, contact us at 904-251-1111 or 1-800-251-1111 to schedule a free, no-obligation consultation to help you determine if you have a case.