Dog Laws in Florida

By Cate Rushton

Dog owners in Florida must adhere to both state and local regulations. As a responsible pet owner, it’s your duty to ensure that your dog doesn’t cause physical or monetary damage to people, other pets, livestock or property. You’re required to vaccinate your dog against rabies and follow the regulations of the county in which you live.

Damage Caused by Dogs

According to the American Society of Plastic Surgery, in 2014, more than 28,000 Americans underwent reconstructive plastic surgery due to dog bites. Florida statute states that a dog owner is liable for damages to a person bitten by his dog, either in public or legally on private property -- even the home where the dog resides.

Florida law states that if your dog bites a person trespassing on your property, you’re not liable for damages. Owners whose dog bites as a result of provocation, teasing or tormenting also are exempt from the law.

Under Florida law, a dog whose attack results in a serious injury or fatality will be confiscated by local authorities and held for 10 business days. You are entitled to a hearing during that time. If you waive the hearing or the judge decides it is appropriate, your dog will be euthanized.

Be sure to maintain control of your dog at all times as Florida law states that you are liable if your dog injures or kills another pet or livestock. A rancher has the right to kill any dog threatening his livestock.

Dogs Classified as Dangerous

Under the Dangerous Dog section of Florida statute, an animal control officer will investigate if your dog bites, injures or attacks people or other animals. He will interview you and impound your dog or ensure that you can keep him safely secured during the investigation.

If your dog is classified as dangerous, you must get a certificate of registration within 14 days, provide a current rabies vaccination certificate and provide an enclosure that safely confines your dog. You must post a visible sign, warning of the dangerous dog on your premises and install a permanent ID, such as a microchip, on the dog.

You must update the certificate of registration annually and notify animal control if:

  • Your dog gets loose or runs away
  • Your dog bites a human or animal
  • You sell him, give him away or he dies
  • You move the dog to another address

A dog previously classified as dangerous will be euthanized if he bites or attacks another person or animal. If a person is severely injured or killed as a result of such an attack, you could be charged with a third degree felony.

Required Florida Dog Vaccinations

Dogs older than 4 months in Florida must be vaccinated against rabies and receive a booster every 12 months thereafter. If you fail to provide your dog with a rabies vaccinations, you’re subject to a $500 fine.

People who wish to sell dogs or puppies must have them vaccinated prior to offering them for sale. Required vaccinations and anthelmintics include:

  • Canine distemper
  • Leptospirosis
  • Bordetella
  • Parainfluenza
  • Hepatitis
  • Canine parvo
  • Rabies
  • Roundworms
  • Hookworms

Ask your breeder for a copy of the vaccinations that are required by law, and follow up with your veterinarian for subsequent vaccinations to ensure your dog’s health.

County Regulations in Florida

In addition to Florida state statutes, dog owners must abide by the laws of the county in which they reside. For instance, in Miami-Dade County, ordinances for pet owners include:

  • Dogs must be leashed in public.
  • It’s illegal to own American pit bull terriers.
  • You’re required to remove your dog’s feces on public property.
  • Dogs 4 months and older must be licensed and wear a tag.
  • You can’t own more than four dogs if your property is less than 1 acre.
  • You cannot tether or chain your dog if you aren’t home.
  • Your dog cannot ride in back of a pickup unless he’s in a crate.

Check your local county’s dog laws to make sure you’re in compliance.