Behavior, not breed, central to Florida’s new dangerous dog law

TAMPA, Fla. (WFLA) — A new bill making its way through the 2022 Florida legislative session would remove breed as a factor in “dangerous dog” policies. Instead, the bill would change the policy requirements to focus only on their behavior.

Senate Bill 614 adjusts existing ‘dangerous dog’ laws in Florida, says a analysis by the legislator. Existing dangerous dog laws have been in effect since 1990, focused on reducing “unprovoked attacks” and protecting the welfare of the public, according to state statutes.

Under current law, a dangerous dog refers to dogs that have attacked or seriously injured someone on public or private property, that have seriously injured or killed other domestic animals repeatedly while not on the property of their owner, or who have pursued or attacked someone in public, without provocation.

For a dog to be considered “dangerous”, an animal control authority must investigate reported incidents and make a decision.

SB 614 does not change any of these classification requirements, and according to the Senate’s own analysis, breed-specific regulations are already prohibited in Florida. However, two parts of Florida have breed ordinances in effect due to a grandfathering provision in the Dangerous Dogs Act of 1990, according to the legislature.

The state of Florida has 99 HUD-registered PHAs, according to the legislature. Of these, 91 are special districts. Currently, PHAs are allowed to have their own pet regulations, mainly focusing on density, size, weight, type and the option of pet fees, bail and registration.

The bill adds the line to state laws that housing authorities, in addition to local governments, can have policies limiting dangerous dogs, as long as they don’t focus on breed rather than behavior.

Some provisions of the ASPs include breed and behavior, or training requirements to make life easier for the animal with the renter. Some PHA policies restrict breeds whether or not an animal control service has found the dog to be considered “vicious or dangerous” through investigation.

Specifically, Miami-Dade County and the Sunrise, Fla., Broward County have ordinances that target pit bulls as a dangerous breed, with ordinances that prohibit them from buying, being brought in Miami-Dade County or “otherwise acquired and regulated due to a unique history, nature, and characteristics that require special regulation.

If SB 614 passes, those ordinances would be erased, bringing both communities into compliance with the rest of the state’s dog laws and restrictions.

Additionally, SB 614 would adjust the ability of public housing authorities to have specific pet regulations for their tenants.

If the bill comes into force and is signed into law, PHAs could impose additional restrictions on owners of dogs deemed unsafe, but would explicitly end “all existing restrictions imposed by housing authorities on specific breeds of dogs” for their tenants. , according to the legislative analysis.