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Premises Liability, Dog Bites And Dangerous Breeds

In Florida, the owner of a dog is liable for any injuries caused by the animal. Unless a dog owner can prove that an adult victim provoked the attack, he or she will be required to pay compensation for the harm done. The breadth of the law in this state may have slowed a trend seen in other jurisdictions: that of breed-specific bans. Miami-Dade County did take the step to ban pit bulls, but there are no statewide restrictions on the types of dogs that can be owned here. That may change in the future, however.

Legislators Respond To Tragedy

Montreal became the latest North American city to respond to an attack with a breed-specific ban. After a fatal attack on a 55-year-old woman, Montreal's city council approved a bylaw making it illegal to adopt, purchase or otherwise acquire a new pit bull. An owner who does so or who fails to obtain the proper permit for their pit bull risks having the dog euthanized. Montreal is not the first city, nor will it be the last to answer a tragic dog attack by banning a breed perceived to be dangerous. 

Any Dog Can Bite

The breed-specific bans might obscure a truth about dog ownership. Any dog can bite. There is no breed, gender or size of dog that ensures a safe pet. Whether or not a dog has been spayed or neutered, it can still attack a human and inflict damage. The responsibilities of dog ownership last the lifetime of the animal, regardless of its temperament or breed.

Unsafe Breeds

It would be foolish to suggest that all dogs represent an equal risk of harm to humans. Larger, stronger dogs are capable of doing more damage when they attack. That said, most dog bite victims are children. A small dog can do significant damage to a child in a short period of time. When it comes to breed-specific bans, there is little support for the notion that they are effective or necessary. The American Veterinary Medical Association and the American Bar Association do not support these bans. Again, there are no safe or unsafe breeds of dog. Every dog owner owes a duty of care to ensure that the dog is controlled properly to prevent an attack. Any failure to do so, regardless of breed, can lead to liability for the victim's injuries.

Source: The Washington Post, "A dog fatally mauled a Canadian woman 3 months ago. Now, Montreal has banned pit bulls," by Ben Guarino, 29 September 2016 

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