In 1989, Miami-Dade County adopted a pit bull ordinance in response to a series of incidents where residents were attacked and seriously injured by pit bulls. Today, it is illegal in Miami-Dade County to own or keep American Pit Bull Terriers, American Staffordshire Terriers, Staffordshire Bull Terriers, or any other dog that substantially conforms to any of these breeds’ characteristics.
In 1990, the Legislature specified that nothing limits any local government from placing further restrictions or additional requirements on owners of dangerous dogs or developing procedures and criteria to implement state law relating to dangerous dogs, provided that no such local regulation is breed-specific and that state law is not lessened by such additional local regulations or requirements. Florida is one of twelve states that prohibit local governments from enacting breed-specific ordinances. The Legislature, however, grandfathered-in local breed-specific ordinances that had been adopted prior to October 1, 1990. A handful of local governments were grandfathered-in under this provision,3 and today, Miami-Dade County, which has a pit bull ordinance, is the only county with a breed-specific ordinance adopted prior to October 1, 1990.
Advocates of breed specific legislation argue that certain breeds of dogs are inherently more dangerous than other breeds.
Opponents have continued to argue that breed-specific legislation is based on irrational and impulsive decisions with faulty studies to back them up. The report further noted that opponents to breed-specific legislation point to the difficulty of properly identifying specific breeds, especially for pit bulls that are a compilation of several types of breeds. Opponents argue that stricter enforcement and harsher penalties for violating already existing dangerous dog laws should be put into place as opposed to legislation that targets only specific dog breeds.
In response to some of the criticism coming out from breed-specific legislation opponents, bills have been introduced to eliminate the 1990 exemption for ordinances adopted prior to October 1, 1990. SB 1322 and HB 997 take aim at Miami-Dade County.
Each bill would amend s. 767.14, F.S., to remove the exemption of breed-specific local ordinances adopted prior to October 1, 1990. Local governments would be able to continue to use home rule authority to place additional restrictions or requirements on owners of dangerous dogs above that which exists in state law, but no additional regulation or restriction is allowed to be breed-specific. Therefore, Miami-Dade County will no longer be able to enforce its breed-specific pit bull ordinance.
Will this result in more severe dog bite injuries in Miami-Dade County? Probably, but we shall see. If you or a loved one has suffered a personal injury as the result of a dog bite, contact the Benenati Law Firm in Orlando to discuss your legal rights. We handle accidents and injuries of all types and will be honored to discuss your claim.