The COVID-19 pandemic has sparked a significant increase in the number of fostered and adopted pets in Southwest Florida.
The New York Times reports animal shelters across the country are seeing increased interest in pet fostering and adoption. From a practical standpoint, spending weeks working from home can be a perfect time to introduce a new pet into the home and get past the worst of the house and obedience training. However, our injury lawyers in Fort Myers and Cape Coral urge you to do your homework before bringing a new pet into your home. Particularly if you have small children, choosing a pet can have a significant impact on risk of injury.
While the pandemic has most of us familiar with the workings of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention in Atlanta as it relates to combating the flu and other viruses, the agency conducts research on a broad range of health topics, including pet ownership.
According to the CDC, benefits of owning a pet include reduced blood pressure, lower cholesterol, reduce symptoms of loneliness and depression, and increase opportunities for outdoor exercise and social contact.
Dog Bite Injuries in Southwest Florida
But it’s important to remember that dog bite injuries are the leading cause of homeowner insurance claims. Carefully review both your homeowner’s insurance policy and, if you are a tenant, your lease, is an important first step before making a commitment to your new pet. Homeowner’s policies should have adequate injury liability coverage and any exclusions should be carefully reviewed. Leases, in particular, may exclude large dogs or breeds deemed to be overly aggressive.
Florida’s dog bite statute, FLSA 767.04, states that a dog owner is liable for injuries if:
- the dog bites another person, and
- the person is in a public place or lawfully in a private place.
Notice, that means you may be responsible for a guest in your home who is bitten. Florida is considered a strict liability state when it comes to dog bite injuries, meaning you can be held responsible as a dog owner even if your dog has no history of aggression and has never previously bitten anyone.
Choosing a New Pet
Children are most at risk when it comes to injuries.
The CDC reports nearly 5 million dog bite cases each year, with about half of those injuries occurring to children. The American Veterinary Medical Association offers resources for those looking to choose the best dog for their home.
An animal’s adult size, activity level of the breed, animal and human allergies, pet disposition, and initial interactions with children and other animals in the home should all be carefully considered before making a final commitment to bring a new pet into your home. While dogs and cats are the most popular household pets in America, any number of other animals, from livestock to reptiles, are marketed and sold as pets in the U.S. Each comes with pros and cons that are best carefully discussed as a family before making a purchase.
If you or a loved one is injured, call Associates and Bruce L. Scheiner, Attorneys for the Injured, at 1-800-646-1210.