Dog Park Liability Laws

Dog parks can be a great place for dogs to learn social skills and for owners to allow dogs to roam free. However, dog owners should be aware of the actions of their dog at all times. If a dog becomes aggressive and attacks another dog or a dog owner it may result in a lawsuit. Bringing a dog that has a past history of aggression to a dog park may also be considered a crime.

Leash Laws and Dog Parks

In Florida, dog owners are liable for any damage or injuries caused by their dog regardless of the past history of bite incidents. Although there is no formal state law mandating that owners must contain their dogs on leashes while in public places, most counties in Florida have leash laws in place. However, at leash-optional dog parks this law is waived, which makes liability more ambiguous.

Dog Park Etiquette

If a dog owner is uncertain of a dog’s disposition around other dogs and people, it is recommended that the dog owner keep the dog on a leash while in the park. If the dog exhibits aggression or fear, the dog owner should remove the dog from the park to prevent dog bite incidents. If an owner fails to take reasonable precautions, a dog bite incident may occur.

Dog Park Liability

Dog parks are not responsible for any bite incidents which may occur while at the dog park. Dog park management only owes a duty of care to park visitors to ensure that the park itself is free from hazards. Dog park owners and management cannot be held liable for incidents which occur between dogs or between dogs and humans.

Dog Owner Liability

Dog owners are responsible for controlling their dog to a certain degree, even while in the dog park. If dog owners do not control dogs and a bite incident occurs while in the dog park, the owner may have to pay medical costs for any injuries sustained. Dog owners may also be subject to fines or other penalties for negligence.

Dog Park Lawsuit Complications

While people that suffer dog bite injuries at a dog park may be able to successfully pursue a lawsuit against the offending dog’s owners, proving negligence may be more difficult than in other scenarios. Since dog parks allow dogs to roam without a leash, an owner cannot be held accountable for violating leash laws at a dog park. A dog bite victim may have to prove that a dog has exhibited aggressive or fearful behavior that the owner should have been aware of.

Dog Park Waiver

Most dog parks have a sign posted at the entrance that informs dog owners of assumed risks when entering the dog park. While this waiver is not necessarily legally binding, it may absolve dog owners of some responsibility that would be present in other settings. An experienced dog bite attorney will be able to provide advice regarding dog bite liability and assumed risks based on specific incidents.

 

 

Sources:

“2014 Florida Legislative Session.” Animal Rights Foundation of Florida. Animal Rights Foundation of Florida, 2 May 2014. Web. 16 Sept. 2014. <http://animalrightsflorida.org/Legislation_2014.html>

“The 2014 Florida Statutes.” Online Sunshine. The Florida Legislature, 16 Sept. 2014. Web. 16 Sept. 2014. <http://www.leg.state.fl.us/statutes/index.cfm?App_mode=Display_Statute&Search_String=&URL=0700-0799/0767/Sections/0767.04.html>

“West Florida Statutes Annotated.” Animal Legal and Historical Center. Michigan State University, 1 Dec. 2013. Web. 16 Sept. 2014.

“2014 Florida Legislative Session.” Animal Rights Foundation of Florida. Animal Rights Foundation of Florida, 2 May 2014. Web. 16 Sept. 2014. <http://animalrightsflorida.org/Legislation_2014.html>