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Dogs in Florida now get due process rights

Dogs owners in Florida take notice: The automatic death sentence on dogs that have seriously injured a human has been lifted.

Florida has long been a "strict liability" dog bite state—meaning that owners can be held responsible for any injuries their dog causes, regardless of the breed of the dog. This held true even if the owner had no reason to suspect that the dog might bite and even if the human involved didn't exercise reasonable care around the animal.

Until recently however, Florida had another kink in its dog bite laws: Any dog that seriously injured a human, under any circumstances, had to be put to sleep. That's all changed as a result of an intense campaign on behalf of Padi, a Labrador mix owned by a Florida veterinarian.

Padi bit a 4-year-old boy while in his owner's office under circumstances that everyone agreed was provoked. However, because the injury to the boy's ear required stitches and reconstructive surgery, it was considered a severe bite—which meant Padi was destined for euthanasia.

A judge ruled Florida's law unconstitutional, saying it deprived dog owners of the right of due process when it came to appealing their dog's sentence. The 2016 Florida dog bite statute now reflects the changes that have developed as a result. Dog owners can now appeal for clemency for their pets and each dog's fate is handled on a case-by-case basis.

This doesn't change Florida's strict liability rules—his owner may still be responsible for the injuries done to the child's ear.

This is good news not only for dog owners but also for potential dog bite victims. In the past, some victims might have been reluctant to admit that they knew the dog that bit them or seek compensation for their damages, knowing that the beloved pet of a family member or friend would be euthanized as a result.

Source: www.leg.state.fl.us, "The 2016 Florida Statutes Chapter 767 Damage By Dogs; Dangerous Dogs," accessed Jan. 04, 2017

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