This is why many parts of the country have leash laws designed to protect dogs, dog owners, and people around dogs, but the situation is slightly different in St. Petersburg.
County But Not State Regulations
Unlike some states in the USA, Florida has no formal leash law at the state level. This means that, technically, the state itself does not view letting a dog run loose as a legal violation. However, this is where counties and other local municipalities differ. While Florida as a whole has no laws, many of the counties, including Pinellas County, where St. Petersburg is located.
For St. Petersburg, the leash laws are well-defined. The basic rules are:
• Leashes should be no longer than six feet
• Dogs aren’t permitted in athletic areas or playgrounds
• Dogs may be unleashed at designated, fenced dog parks
• Dogs may be unleashed in enclosed areas for limited events authorized by City Council
• In private residences, dogs must remain still on a leash unless the property owner permits them to remove the leash
• Dogs may be off-leash in a fenced area of the property of the dog owner
Breaking The Law
Unlike humans that commit acts of violence, when a dog attacks a person, this is not considered a criminal act, and therefore neither the dog nor the owner of the dog has criminal charges laid against them. However, that doesn’t mean that dog attacks are legal; they are not punished as criminal violations.
Dog attacks are against the law, but because they are considered a breach of civil law, there are civil legal consequences. In this case, the dog is not regarded as responsible for the attack; the dog’s owner is. And the presence of a leash can be critical in determining the degree of fault in a dog bite case.
No Leash Means Greater Responsibility
In a dog bite or attack situation, the owner is always considered legally liable for what the dog has done. However, if the owner has ignored leash laws, and the dog was loose when a bite or attack occurred, this automatically means a greater severity for legal culpability.
For example, it’s one thing if a dog is contained at home and bites someone playing rough with the animal and doesn’t correctly read the warning signs the dog gives. It’s another legal situation when a dog is loose in a park, enters a playground, and attacks a running child that is viewed as prey.
If you or someone you know has been bitten or attacked by an unleashed dog in a public space, you are the victim of a civil law violation. Talk to a dog bite attorney about what’s happened to you, and learn what you should do next to get the compensation owed to you by the dog’s owner.