2004 Florida Statutes
Classification of dogs as dangerous; certification of registration; notice and hearing requirements; confinement of animal; exemption; appeals; unlawful acts.
(1)(a) An animal control authority shall investigate reported incidents involving any dog that may be dangerous and shall, if possible, interview the owner and require a sworn affidavit from any person, including any animal control officer or enforcement officer, desiring to have a dog classified as dangerous. Any animal that is the subject of a dangerous dog investigation, that is not impounded with the animal control authority, shall be humanely and safely confined by the owner in a securely fenced or enclosed area pending the outcome of the investigation and resolution of any hearings related to the dangerous dog classification. The address of where the animal resides shall be provided to the animal control authority. No dog that is the subject of a dangerous dog investigation may be relocated or ownership transferred pending the outcome of an investigation or any hearings related to the determination of a dangerous dog classification. In the event that a dog is to be destroyed, the dog shall not be relocated or ownership transferred.
(b) A dog shall not be declared dangerous if the threat, injury, or damage was sustained by a person who, at the time, was unlawfully on the property or, while lawfully on the property, was tormenting, abusing, or assaulting the dog or its owner or a family member. No dog may be declared dangerous if the dog was protecting or defending a human being within the immediate vicinity of the dog from an unjustified attack or assault.
(c) After the investigation, the animal control authority shall make an initial determination as to whether there is sufficient cause to classify the dog as dangerous and shall afford the owner an opportunity for a hearing prior to making a final determination. The animal control authority shall provide written notification of the sufficient cause finding, to the owner, by registered mail, certified hand delivery, or service in conformance with the provisions of chapter 48 relating to service of process. The owner may file a written request for a hearing within 7 calendar days from the date of receipt of the notification of the sufficient cause finding and, if requested, the hearing shall be held as soon as possible, but not more than 21 calendar days and no sooner than 5 days after receipt of the request from the owner. Each applicable local governing authority shall establish hearing procedures that conform to this paragraph.
(d) Once a dog is classified as a dangerous dog, the animal control authority shall provide written notification to the owner by registered mail, certified hand delivery or service, and the owner may file a written request for a hearing in the county court to appeal the classification within 10 business days after receipt of a written determination of dangerous dog classification and must confine the dog in a securely fenced or enclosed area pending a resolution of the appeal. Each applicable local governing authority must establish appeal procedures that conform to this paragraph.
(2) Within 14 days after a dog has been classified as dangerous by the animal control authority or a dangerous dog classification is upheld by the county court on appeal, the owner of the dog must obtain a certificate of registration for the dog from the animal control authority serving the area in which he or she resides, and the certificate shall be renewed annually. Animal control authorities are authorized to issue such certificates of registration, and renewals thereof, only to persons who are at least 18 years of age and who present to the animal control authority sufficient evidence of:
(a) A current certificate of rabies vaccination for the dog.
(b) A proper enclosure to confine a dangerous dog and the posting of the premises with a clearly visible warning sign at all entry points that informs both children and adults of the presence of a dangerous dog on the property.
(c) Permanent identification of the dog, such as a tattoo on the inside thigh or electronic implantation.
The appropriate governmental unit may impose an annual fee for the issuance of certificates of registration required by this section.
(3) The owner shall immediately notify the appropriate animal control authority when a dog that has been classified as dangerous:
(a) Is loose or unconfined.
(b) Has bitten a human being or attacked another animal.
(c) Is sold, given away, or dies.
(d) Is moved to another address.
Prior to a dangerous dog being sold or given away, the owner shall provide the name, address, and telephone number of the new owner to the animal control authority. The new owner must comply with all of the requirements of this act and implementing local ordinances, even if the animal is moved from one local jurisdiction to another within the state. The animal control officer must be notified by the owner of a dog classified as dangerous that the dog is in his or her jurisdiction.
(4) It is unlawful for the owner of a dangerous dog to permit the dog to be outside a proper enclosure unless the dog is muzzled and restrained by a substantial chain or leash and under control of a competent person. The muzzle must be made in a manner that will not cause injury to the dog or interfere with its vision or respiration but will prevent it from biting any person or animal. The owner may exercise the dog in a securely fenced or enclosed area that does not have a top, without a muzzle or leash, if the dog remains within his or her sight and only members of the immediate household or persons 18 years of age or older are allowed in the enclosure when the dog is present. When being transported, such dogs must be safely and securely restrained within a vehicle.
(5) Hunting dogs are exempt from the provisions of this act when engaged in any legal hunt or training procedure. Dogs engaged in training or exhibiting in legal sports such as obedience trials, conformation shows, field trials, hunting/retrieving trials, and herding trials are exempt from the provisions of this act when engaged in any legal procedures. However, such dogs at all other times in all other respects shall be subject to this and local laws. Dogs that have been classified as dangerous shall not be used for hunting purposes.
(6) This section does not apply to dogs used by law enforcement officials for law enforcement work.
(7) Any person who violates any provision of this section is guilty of a noncriminal infraction, punishable by a fine not exceeding $500.
History.--s. 3, ch. 90-180; s. 3, ch. 93-13; s. 3, ch. 94-339; s. 1157, ch. 97-102.