Can I Be Arrested for Shooting an Attacking Dog in Florida?

We are often asked about attacks by dogs. Can you shoot a dog that is approaching you aggressively? Do you have to wait for it to bite before defending yourself? What level of force can you use to defend yourself against a dog or other animal? If you are out jogging or walking your dog and another dog approaches in an aggressive manner, teeth bared, snarling, do you have a right to stand your ground and use deadly force to protect yourself and your dog? Most people are surprised to learn that nowhere in Florida law do our statutes give authority to use force of any kind against an animal if being attacked. Instead, Floridians must rely on case law and the animal cruelty statute. Our law prohibits the killing of an animal unnecessarily.

The relevant part of the animal cruelty law states that a person who unnecessarily mutilates or kills any animal, commits animal cruelty, a misdemeanor of the first degree, which is punishable by up to a year in jail. Further, a person who intentionally commits an act which results in the cruel death or excessive or repeated infliction of unnecessary pain or suffering, commits aggravated animal cruelty, a felony of the third degree punishable by up to five years in prison and a fine up to $5,000. Necessity is an affirmative defense in Florida. For actions to be found necessary, the following requirements must be met:

  1. The actor reasonably believed a danger or an emergency existed which was not intentionally caused by him or herself.
  2. The danger or emergency threatened significant harm to himself, herself, or a third person.
  3. The threat and harm must have been real, imminent, and impending.
  4. The actor had no reasonable means to avoid the danger or emergency, except by committing the crime.
  5. The crime charged must have been committed out of necessity to avoid the danger or emergency.
  6. The harm that the actor avoided must outweigh the harm caused by committing the crime.

Unfortunately, even though Florida law specifically tells us we can stand our ground against attacks from other humans, it is silent on animal attacks, leaving the fate of those who defend themselves against animal attack in the hands of a jury; who must decide if the defender’s action were necessary under the circumstances. Further, the cases show us the force used can only be as much as is necessary to stop the attack. If you shot a pit bull attacking you and one shot stops the attack, as the animal turns to flee, you cannot shoot again or your actions may be considered unnecessary and therefore in violation of the animal cruelty statute. If you have further questions about using force to defend yourself against a dog or other attacking animal, please give U.S. LawShield a call and ask to be connected to your Independent Program Attorney.

First Aid for Gunshot Wounds 2A Institute

Comment section

6 comments on “Can I Be Arrested for Shooting an Attacking Dog in Florida?

  1. My dogs have been attacked several times by loose dogs, the Police and Animal Control Officers told me to start carrying Pepper Spray, it works in 95% of the “attacks” and it is legal as no permanent damage is done.

  2. While walking our dogs on leashes in our own neighborhood we were attacked by a vicious unleashed Pit Bull. This animal very nearly killed my friend’s Yellow Lab. I used an entire canister of pepper spray at close range directly in the offending dog’s eyes. It did absolutely NOTHING to stop the Pit. This same animal has bitten 2 other humans that we know of and is still being kept by the owners. We feel like prisoners in out own homes due to Florida’s lack of attacking dog laws.

  3. This is ridiculous the laws need to change in order to protect oneself from a deadly attack especially against pit bulls. I was just charged at by a pitbull while walking my small 15lbs dog. I’m shaken up, hurt physically and pissed people don’t keep their dogs on leashes regardless if you are just stepping into your yard. I was nowhere near the pit bull’s yard. I purposely stay away because I know how unpredictable dogs can be; even the well trained ones. The new law should state no leash gives a person legal right to defend themselves against a pitbull charging at full speed especially.

  4. I was told by the responding officer when my pit was attacked that it was illegal but the charges would be discharge of a firearm in the city limits. He also recommended I carry and use pepper spray which I have used successfully carry both that way you are protected against people and dogs

  5. I own a Pit; she is a 10 year old rescue dog. She is not aggressive and has always played well with other dogs and children. That said I still respect the breed and the fact she is a rescue dog so you truly don’t know all her triggers or what she has been through. I keep her on a leash with harness at all times. Yesterday I got home from getting her nails clipped and had pulled in my garage. I went to open the back of my subaru and I did not see my neighbor walking their small dog. Before I knew it my dog got out the car and ran down the driveway onto the sidewalk. My dog did not growl or bark just ran towards the guy and his dog as pits do. Truth be told she wanted to play. I yelled as the guy was hanging his dog from his leash. I got to my dog and she did not scratch bite or harm his dog. Scared him more than anything; I asked if his dog was ok and apologized saying I did not see him walking when I opened the back of my car. He said you are just lucky I was not packing today. I was very upset about his comment. Was he really going to shoot my dog while I was standing right there. I am not against protecting yourself but just because my dog is a pit does not mean she deserves to be shot. Obviously I will pay more attention when I go to let her out of the car and bring her in the house but it sure has changed my view about people. I am still shocked! I have been attacked by a dog before or had one or two chase me and I would never say my first thought was I will shoot this dog.

  6. If dog owners are unable to control their animals at all times while out in public, assuming their dog didnt chase after a neighbor or child or person then, not only is the dog owner proving they are irresponsible to care for that animal, they also don’t deserve to own that animal anymore as your ignorance is placing the dog and other humans at risk.

    One thing to realize here is YOU are used to your pet, Do not expect other people to assume the best case scenario of a pet they know very little to nothing about regardless of breed.

    How about instead of feeling hurt about what your neighbor said, actually a good human and make sure your sloppy dog parenting doesn’t terrify people minding their own business. Because yes people who are startled and have adrenaline rushing will absolutely threaten to shoot your dog. They didn’t deserve to be frightened.

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