Padi’s Bill approved by Florida House
House Bill 0091(CS/CS/CS/HB 91) to protect animals from death row has cleared three committees without a single 'No' vote in Tallahassee.
The bill was inspired by a 4-year-old Lab mix named Padi that bit a child. Padi was owned by a vet. On June 4, 2015, Padi bit the child’s ear lobe, which caused him to undergo a reconstructive surgery on his left ear. Resultantly, Padi was confiscated by the Manatee County Animal Service Division and made to spend eleven weeks in the Animal Services' custody, while the local animal activists pleaded for the dog to be released to its owner.
Gartenberg’s attorney stated that the child wandered into the office while he was in an exam room and started throwing toys at Padi, a rescue dog that resides at the clinic. The dog tried to hide beneath his desk but the boy followed it. Gartenberg believes the dog felt “cornered.”
Padi was spared by a Circuit judge ruling the law, Fla. Stat. §767.13(2) as unconstitutional. [See Manatee County v. Paul Gartenberg, 2015-CA-003844 (Manatee Cty. Cir. Ct. 2015)]. However, the law is still in effect in most of the state.
Earlier, in Porter v. Allstate Ins. Co., 497 So. 2d 927 (1986), the Porter family filed a lawsuit on behalf of their four-year-old son who was injured during a dog attack. The victim, Michael Porter, was accused of pulling on the dog’s ears immediately before the attack. In court, this conduct can be classified as provoking a dog, a known statutory defense in a dog bite case.
Under common law, a child under six years of age is legally incapable of being negligent. The lawsuit discussed whether a child can be considered to be comparatively negligent for provoking a dog in a careless or mischievous manner. Comparative negligence refers to the victim’s actions or behaviors which may have contributed to the injury in question.
Florida’s dog bite liability statute, §767.04 states that in most cases, the dog’s owner is liable for any injury that his or her dog causes to another person. This liability falls on the owner regardless of whether or not the dog has been previously identified as dangerous. This statute differs from some other states, where the injured individual must prove that the dog was a known risk. While this Florida statute holds true for a number of dog attack cases, there are a few exceptions to the rule.
An exception to the Florida statute states that the dog’s owner is not liable for injuries in cases where the dog attack occurred because the dog was “mischievously or carelessly provoked or aggravated.” The statute does not carve out an exception for children who may provoke a dog. In other words, the dog owner is not responsible when the injured individual caused the attack by purposely or negligently bothering, harassing, or agitating the dog. Mischievous or careless provocation transfers liability to the injured individual, regardless of the individual’s age.
Under the current law, a dog biting someone is automatically considered in the wrong, However, the new legislation has changed it.