My Dog is a “Killer-machine”? I can’t bring it with me to Florida?
Well, there is not much you can do about perception, although, certain breeds of dogs are considered more dangerous than others. Is it justified? Statistically, some breeds like Dobermans, German Shepherds or Pit bulls are more often involved in, sometimes fatal, attacks.
In most cases, those dogs have earned their bad reputation due to mistreatment of their owners. Many, especially young male dog owners, train their dogs to become as aggressive as they can be. Those dogs are mainly used as „weapons“; they are meant to attack, scare other people away or just boost their ruffled ego. Some are even still used in illegal dog fights. However, other factors added to the bad reputation as well.
Pit Bulls and other Dogs
Especially one member of the terrier family became very popular among young criminals and younger men without self-esteem with bad ideas. The American Pitbull Terrier, Stafford Shire Terrier, and Staffordshire Bull Terrier became the dog of choice for those people. Strong, assertive, energetic and prone to chase, those dogs can easily be transformed into a mean attacker. They can quickly and effectively be turned into a gruesome and relentless fighter and killer. Those dogs, once out of control, may even attack and kill their owner.
However, if trained and handled correctly, those dogs can be wonderful pets and loyal companions. Nevertheless, they are still animals, and because they are so strong and energetic they need strong supervision, and they need to be trained to know their limits. And the dog owner should always keep in mind that under certain conditions, like distress or fear, the sweetest animal can instantly become dangerous. And the damage an 80 lbs Pitbull (compared to the bites of a 20 lbs dachshund) can impose is be pretty significant.
Not all Dogs are Equal
It is unfortunately not uncommon that people get killed or seriously mauled by a German Shepherd, Rottweiler, Doberman, Mastiff or Pitbull. However, the chances are fortunately still slim that that will happen to you. Only a small number of people gets killed each year. But for the ones who do get killed, it is one too many. Usually, kids and older people fall victim to fatal dog attacks, but often the owners and healthy middle age people, too. If two seriously angry 80 lbs Pit bulls are attacking you, you really need a guardian angel helping you out.
The average hospital bill of nonfatal attacks is around $20,000. That amount indicates that the outcome of such an event is more than a few scratches. It only can be described as “not pretty”.
The average rate of „murders“ by dogs in the US is about 30 – 35 victims per year, which is really not too bad, but many people are still scared when they unexpectedly look into the eyes of a Mastiff or Pitbull.
Does Florida ban certain Breeds?
Now, the question often asked is: Can I move to Florida with my good behaving dog? Are Pit Bulls generally prohibited in Florida?
The answer is: No! They are not. There are only one out of 67 counties in Florida, that bans Pit Bulls…and the winner is… Miami-Dade County. In 1990, Florida legislator banned any municipality from passing legislation that targets a particular breed. But such a ban was already established in Miami-Dade in 1989. Therefore, the law was already grandfathered in. So, Miami-Dade is out of the question if you want to bring your baby.
Now, what about the other counties?
They do not have a ban on particular breeds, but they have a set of rules for all k-9’s. The communities can define those rules further… and the landlords can impose whatever they want. Eventually, you have only one chance to bring your dog, and that is if you declare that your Pit is a hamster. Kidding.
General Rules for Manatee, Sarasota and Charlotte County
The dog is a dangerous animal if:
- it unprovoked chased or approached another person
- attacked a person
- attacked or injured a domestic animal
- found at large 3x within 18 months
- was impounded by animal control 3 x(no time period)
- was found a threat to public health or security
That is a pretty clear explanation and does not give a lot of leeway for interpretation. There is no particular breed mentioned; therefore, it doesn’t make a difference if the „ attacker“ is a Pitbull or a „Wiener.“ If they misbehave, both will be locked up in „doggy jail.“ For more accurate information, please check their websites.
Home Owners Associations may have other rules as well
The communities or HOA’s can make it more stringent. They can ban certain breeds, but they do it more elegantly with weight restrictions. When they impose a 35 lbs weight limit Pit bulls or German Shepherds are not really in the picture anymore. Once they permit 100 lbs or more they will usually mention in their covenants breeds they do not want to see in their community. If you are in doubt that they can do it, take the covenants and let the rules check by a lawyer.
Condo Associations and Co- Ops often have a tight set of pet – rules, single family home subdivisions are not so strict. There are many communities, even gated communities, permitting all breeds of dogs. Some are extremely dog-friendly, but only if they are not a nuisance. The owners and dogs have to obey certain rules (being on the leash and cleaning up after the dog), but if they behave nothing will restrict their joy.
Renters have no easy life
Renters, in general, have more restrictions on pets. Many communities in Florida do not permit pets at all, no matter what breed. So, when it comes to pets, all people are equal, but not all renters. And if the community “okays” the renter’s pet, the landlord can still say “ney.” This has nothing to do with discrimination, and the renter can do nothing about it. It is their property, and if they do not want pets, they Do Not Want Them. Only in case, your Pitbull is a service dog you can expect a different answer.
Two more things:
There are quite a few insurance companies which do not write homeowner’s policies when a Pit Bull, Doberman or German Shepherd lives in your house. They fear that your dog will sooner or later eat all your neighbors and they have to pay for the meal. Be prepared for that obstacle. You might have to shop around for a while before you get insurance. But keep in mind, that not mentioning your dog to the insurance agent is not an option. If they find out your policy is nothing more than unpleasant bathroom tissue.
Sorry, no Free Bite
Furthermore, your dog does not get a “free” first test – bite. If that happens, the laws in Florida are tough, and you and your dog will not easily get off the hook of law enforcement – if at all. Once your dog is classified as a “dangerous animal,” because it attacked or injured another domestic animal, unprovoked chased or approached another person or was found a thread to public health and safety, both of you are on animal control’s watch list. That is not a lovely spot to be. When your dog is speeding up the trip of the guy with a walker next door for the second time – game is over.
What does our Krystal Ball tell us?
Do we have one? Will Florida’s counties be a Pitbull friendly place forever? That we can not answer, dear pet lover. A lawmaker from Tampa tried already two times unsuccessfully to impose restrictions for the Tampa area. As long as he stays in Government, he will probably try again and again. Will he be successful one day? We don’t know. Would other counties follow and impose restrictions as well? We don’t know either. We know, though, that it is in the hands of the pet owners and their dogs. If more unnecessary accidents with Pitbulls happen, the more likely the public will ask for protection. Don’t let that happen.
Need help to find a place for you and your “killer”? Yes, we can help!