Florida Cases

Case namesort descending Citation Summary
Arellano v. Broward --- So.3d ----, 2016 WL 6992338 (Fla. Dist. Ct. App. Nov. 30, 2016)

Plaintiff Lisa Arellano suffered a dog bite and injury to her big toe after being attacked by a guard dog. The Defendant, Broward K–9/Miami K–9 Services, Inc. (“K–9”), owned two guard dogs. The guard dogs escaped K-9 after the business was burglarized, and the chain link fence was cut. The dogs entered Arellano’s neighborhood and she believed that the dogs belonged to one of her neighbors. Arellano fed and sheltered the dogs for about five days, and took steps to find the dogs' owner. However, Arellano also had pet dogs of her own. Eventually, one of the guard dogs attacked one of Arellano's dogs. When Arellano intervened in the attack between the two dogs, she was injured. Eventually, Animal Control determined that K–9 owned the guard dogs. Arellano then brought a statuory damages claim for strict liability against K-9 under Florida’s dog bite statute. The Circuit Court, Miami–Dade County, entered summary judgment in favor of K-9 and determined as a matter of law, that Arellano's actions constituted a superseding, intervening cause, thereby precluding her statutory dog bite claim against the Defendant, K-9.  Plaintiff, Arellano appealed.  The District Court of Appeals, held that triable issues of fact existed as to whether, and to what extent, K-9's liability under the statute should be reduced because of allegedly negligent actions by Arellano. The Court of Appeals reversed and remanded the circuit court decision and reasoned that Florida's dog bite statute imposes strict liability on dog owners, subject only to a plaintiff's comparative negligence, which in this case must be determined by the trier-of-fact. K-9's liability under the statute should only be reduced because of the allegedly negligent actions of Arellano. The court also reversed the resulting cost judgment in K–9's favor. The case was remanded to the trial court.

ARFF, Inc. v. Siegel 867 So.2d 451 (Fla. Dist. Ct. App. 2004)

Resort developer and president of an animal performance company received an injunction against an animal rights group limiting their ability to both picket the resort and distribute pamphlets claiming that the big cats were abused.  Appellate court reversed, finding that the picketing regulations burdened more speech than necessary and that the restriction on distributing pamphlets was a prior restraint not justified by a compelling state interest.

Bal Harbour Village v. Welsh 879 So.2d 1265 (Fl. 2004)

Defendant owned four dogs prior to the enactment of an ordinance prohibiting municipality residents from owning more than two dogs in one household.  The municipality brought suit against Defendant for failing to comply with the ordinance.  The trial court denied the municipalities prayer for permanent injunctive relief, but the Court of Appeals overruled the decision holding the ordinance could constitutionally be enforced under the police power to abate nuisance.

Bartlett v. State 929 So.2d 1125, (Fla.App. 4 Dist.,2006)

In this Florida case, the court held that the evidence was sufficient to support a conviction for felony cruelty to animals after the defendant shot an opossum "countless" times with a BB gun after the animal had left defendant's home. As a result, the animal had to be euthanized. The court wrote separately to observe that the felony cruelty section (828.12) as written creates a potential tension between conduct criminalized by the statute and the lawful pursuit of hunting. The commission of an act that causes a "cruel death" in Section 828.12 applies to even the unintended consequence of a lawful act like hunting.

Bennett v. Bennett 655 So.2d 109 (Fla.App. 1 Dist.,1995)

In this Florida case, the husband, Ronald Bennett, appealed a final judgment of dissolution of marriage awarding custody of the parties' dog. Specifically, the husband challenged the trial court's awarding the former wife visitation with the dog. The appellate court held that the trial court lacked the authority to order visitation with personal property (in this case, a dog). The court recognized that the lower court was trying to reach a fair solution, but the order was reversed and remanded remanded so that the trial court could award the animal pursuant to the dictates of the equitable distribution statute.

Brown v. Faircloth 66 So.2d 232 (Fla. 1953)

In this Florida case, the defendant appealed from an adverse judgment involving the sale of a bird dog. The complaint alleged that the defendant was a professional bird dog trainer and field trial handler and as such knew the qualifications necessary for a dog to have in order to compete successfully on the major field trial circuit. Plaintiff claimed that, in order to induce the plaintiff to purchase a bird dog then owned by the defendant, defendant falsely represented and warranted that the dog was of such quality and was, as is generally known in field trial parlance, a 'three-hour dog.' After plaintiff had the dog for a short time, the plaintiff found that the warranty as to soundness was not true but that the dog was infected with heart worms at the time of sale and was not a 'three-hour dog.' Thereupon the plaintiff sought to rescind the contract by returning the dog and demanding back the purchase price of which defendant refused. On appeal, defendant contended that the jury instructions failed to inform the jurors that where the sale of an animal for a particular purpose is involved, there can be no recovery for the breach of an implied warranty unless it is shown by the buyer that he or she made known to the seller the particular purpose for which the animal was being purchased and relied on the seller's skill and judgment. The Supreme Court noted that this case was not bottomed upon that theory, but upon the theory that the defendant expressly warranted the dog to be a 'three-hour dog.' This express warranty carried with it the implied warranties that the animal was sound physically, was finished in his training, and was capable of running three-hour races. In other words, the Court was of the opinion that the express warranties defined by the Court in the charge to the Jury embraced and included any defined, implied warranty.

Brown v. State --- So.3d ----, 2015 WL 72231 (Fla. Dist. Ct. App. 2015) Defendant was found guilty of felony cruelty to animals after a Chow mix was found near defendant's mobile home emaciated and suffering from several long-term conditions that had gone untreated. Defendant was convicted in the Circuit Court, Pasco County and was sentenced to six months of community control followed by three years of probation. She timely appealed, raising several arguments. The District Court of Florida affirmed the trial court’s decision, writing only to address her claim that the trial court erred in denying her motion for judgment of acquittal because a felony conviction for animal cruelty Florida Statutes could not be based on an omission or failure to act. In doing so, the court noted that a defendant could be properly charged with felony animal cruelty under this version of the Florida statute for intentionally committing an act that resulted in excessive or repeated infliction of unnecessary pain or suffering to an animal by failing to provide adequate food, water, or medical treatment. The court then held that sufficient evidence existed showing that defendant owned a dog and failed, over a period of more than one year, to provide adequate food, water and needed medical care.
Caribbean Conservation Corp., Inc. v. Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Com'n 838 So.2d 492(Fla. 2003)

The petitioners' challenge is whether the Legislature can require the newly created Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission (FWCC) to comply with the requirements of the Administrative Procedure Act (APA), when adopting rules or regulations in respect to those species of marine life that are defined as endangered, threatened, or species of special concern. The petitioners are not-for-profit groups and individuals who allege several statutory sections unconstitutionally usurp the constitutional authority of the FWCC to regulate marine life.  The FWCC and the Attorney General (respondents) disagree and argue that the Legislature can require the application of the APA and that the statutes that delineate power to the Department of Environmental Protection (DEP) are constitutional.  The issue was whether the creation of the FWCC also gave it power to regulate endangered, threatened, and species of special concern or whether that power remained with the DEP.  The court found that such power remained with the DEP regarding endangered and threatened species of marine life.  However, it could discern no statutory basis in effect on March 1, 1998, for the DEP having regulatory or executive power in respect to a category of marine species designated "of special concern" so that portion of the challenged statutes was held unconstitutional.

City of Delray Beach v. St. Juste 989 So.2d 655 (Fla.App. 4 Dist.,2008)

In this Florida case, the city of Delray Beach appeals a judgment for damages in favor of  plaintiff, who was injured by two loose dogs. Plaintiff was attacked and severely injured by two large dogs owned by a resident of Delray Beach, when the dogs escaped from the resident's fenced yard. The theory of liability was based on the city's knowledge, from prior complaints and an actual visit by an animal control officer, that these dogs were loose from time to time and dangerous. This court agreed with the city, finding that the decision of an animal control officer was discretionary and therefore immune from liability under these circumstances.

County of Pasco v. Riehl 620 So.2d 229 (Fla.App. 2 Dist.,1993)

When owners of a "dangerous dog" attempted to enjoin such a classification, this court held the dangerous dog statute was unconstitutional.  Because dogs are subjects of property and ownership, the owner's deprivation of a dog entitles him to procedural due process.

Hamilton v. State 128 So.3d 872 (Fla.App. 4 Dist.)

In this Florida case, the 82-year-old defendant was convicted of a third-degree felony animal cruelty violation (section 828.12(2)) and sentenced to three years' imprisonment. Defendant had his dog on leash and approached too close to a cat, whereupon the leashed dog began to attack the cat. In reversing the decision, the appellate court found that defendant's conduct did not rise to a criminal level, as it was "objectively unlikely" that a leashed dog walking with his owner would inflict such damage. Further, while the issue of sentencing was rendered moot by the reversal, the court found the consideration of a petition with approximately 3,000 signatures demanding the maximum sentence, "an affront to the very notion of due process of law . . ."

Hanrahan v. Hometown America, LLC 90 So.3d 915 (Fla.App. 4 Dist.)

While walking his dog one evening, the plaintiff's husband was attacked by fire ants. In an attempt to remove the ants off his person, the plaintiff's husband collapsed in the shower. Two days later, he died. As a representative for her husband's estate and in her own capacity, the plaintiff filed a negligence suit against her landlord. After the trial court granted the landlord's motion for summary judgment, the plaintiff appealed. Affirming the lower court's decision, the appeals court reasoned that since the landlord did not harbor, possess, or introduce the fire ants onto the premises, the landlord owed no duty to the plaintiff.

Hoesch v. Broward County 53 So.3d 1177 (Fla.App. 4 Dist., 2011)

A Broward County, Florida ordinance defines a dangerous dog as “any dog that . . . [h]as killed or caused the death of a domestic animal in one incident.” Plaintiff Brian Hoesch’s dog escaped from Hoesch’s backyard and attacked and killed a neighbor’s cat. Prior to this incident, the dog had never been declared “dangerous” by any governmental authority. Hoesch requested a hearing after Broward’s animal control division notified Hoesch of its intent to destroy his dog. After a judgment in favor of Broward County, Hoesch contends that both county ordinances conflict with state law, section 767.11(1)(b), which defines a “dangerous dog” as any dog that “[h]as more than once severely injured or killed a domestic animal . . . .” The District Court of Appeal of Florida, Fourth District, concluded “that Broward County ordinance sections 4-2(k)(2) and 4-12(j)(2) are null and void insofar as they conflict with state law.” 

Johnson v. Wander 592 So. 2d. 1225 (Fla. Dist. Ct. App. 1992)

Petitioner pet owner alleged that respondent veterinarian took her dog to be spayed, and left the animal on heating pads, which resulted in serious burns, so petitioner filed a claim for damages on the basis of gross negligence, damage to property, and emotional distress. The trial court entered partial summary judgments on the claims for punitive damages and emotional distress and, on a subsequent motion, transferred the case to the county court as a claim for less than the circuit court jurisdictional amount.  The appellate court held that there remained a jury question on the issues of gross negligence and physical and mental pain and suffering as claimed by petitioner.

Kennedy v. Byas 867 So.2d 1195 (D. Fla. 2004)

Plaintiff filed for a Writ of Certiorari requesting that his case be transfered from circuit court to county court.  He was seeking damages for emotional distress, following alleged veterinary malpractice by the defendant.  The Court held that Florida would not consider pets to be part of an actual family, that damages for emotional distress will not be permitted, and therefore the plaintiff did not have sufficient damages to met the circuit court jurisdictional amount.   Petition denied..

Kervin v. State --- So.3d ----, 2016 WL 3606532 (Fla. Dist. Ct. App. July 6, 2016) Donald Ray Kervin was found guilty of felony animal cruelty stemming from a 2012 incident at his residence. Animal control officers arrived to find defendant's dog "Chubbie" in a small, hot laundry room a the back of his house that emitted a "rotten-flesh odor." Chubbie was visibly wet, lying in his own feces and urine, with several open wounds infested with maggots. After questioning Kervin about the dog's injuries, defendant finally admitted to hitting Chubbie with a shovel for discipline. The dog was ultimately euthanized due to the severity of his condition. In this instant appeal, Kervin contends that the lower court erred in using the 2014 revised jury instruction to instruct the jury on the charged offense rather than the 2012 version of the instruction. Kevin argued that the 2014 version expanded the 2012 version to include the “failure to act” in felony animal cruelty cases. Also, Kervin argued that the 2012 version should have been used because it was in place at the time the offense occurred. Ultimately, the court found that the lower court did not err by using the 2014 jury instruction. The court held that the 2014 jury instructions merely “clarified” the 2012 jury instruction and that the “failure to act” was already present in the 2012 jury instruction. As a result, the court upheld Kervin’s guilty verdict.
Knowles Animal Hospital, Inc. v. Wills 360 So.2d 37 (Fla.App.,1978)

Dog owners brought negligence action against veterinarian and animal hospital after their dog suffered injuries while under the veterinarian's and the hospital's care. The Appeals Court held that the trial court did not err by allowing the jury to consider plaintiff-owners' mental pain and suffering, and that the jury could reasonably have viewed defendants' neglectful conduct resulting in the dog's injury to have amounted to great indifference to plaintiffs' property.

LaPorte v. Associated Independents, Inc. 163 So.2d 267 (Fla. 1964)

Respondent was a corporation engaged in the garbage collection business.  One of its employees maliciously hurled an empty garbage can at plaintiff's pet pedigreed dog, who was tethered at the time, killing it.  The issue before the court was the reconsideration not of  the issue of liability, but for determination only of compensatory and punitive damages.  The court stated that it was obvious from the facts that the act performed by the representative of the respondent was malicious and demonstrated an extreme indifference to the rights of the petitioner. Having this view, there was no prohibition of punitive damages relative to awarding compensation for mental pain, as would be the case if there had been physical injury resulting only from simple negligence.  The court went on to say that the restriction of the loss of a pet to its intrinsic value in circumstances such as the ones before us is a principle we cannot accept and that the malicious destruction of the pet provides an element of damage for which the owner should recover, irrespective of the value of the animal because of its special training.

Leigh v. State 58 So. 3d 396 (Fla. Dist. Ct. App. 2011) Philip Leigh (Defendant) appeals from an order summarily denying his motion for postconviction relief. Following a jury trial, Defendant was found guilty of trafficking in cocaine and conspiracy to traffic. Defendant claimed his trial counsel was ineffective for allowing him to appear in a leg restraint and for failing to object to the presence of a dog. Apparently, the dog became disruptive on more than one occasion and was visible to the judge and jury. The Florida appellate court reversed and remanded, with a provision that the trial court could attach portions of the record that would refute the possibility that defense counsel’s failure to object to the dog’s presence indicated ineffective assistance of counsel. Since there was apparently no evidence of the dog’s presence in the record at all, the trial court was presumably obligated to conduct an evidentiary hearing on the matter.
Levine v. Knowles 197 So.2d 329 (Fla.App. 1967)

This negligence action for both compensatory and punitive damages results from the premature cremation of 'Tiki,' a Toy Chihuahua dog, who died while undergoing apparently routine treatment for a skin condition. Plaintiff instructed the veterinarian to keep Tiki's body so that he could have an autopsy performed, but the dog's body was cremated before it could be claimed so that, according to plaintiff, defendant could avoid malpractice claims. 

In this case, the court only determined that under the facts peculiar to this case, an action for damages was sufficiently alleged by the complaint and the defendant has failed to conclusively demonstrate the non-existence of all material issues of fact so as to be entitled to a summary final judgment.

Marino v. University of Florida 107 So.3d 1231 (Fla.App. 1 Dist.,2013)

The petitioner in this Florida case sought records for 33 non-human primates whose captivity was documented by a USDA report. The University of Florida redacted certain portions of the records to obscure the physical housing location of the primates. The University contends that the information was confidential and exempt under Florida law as part of its "Security Plan." On appeal, this court first noted that under the Florida Public Records Act, all public documents are subject to public disclosure unless specifically legislatively exempted without considering public policy questions. The court reversed and remanded the case with instructions to release the records without redaction.

McGraw v. R and R Investments, Ltd. 877 So.2d 886 (Fl. 2004)

Plaintiff was injured when she was thrown from defendant's horse.  The Circuit Court granted summary judgment for defendant and plaintiff appealed.  The District Court of Appeals held that, as a matter of first impression, the defendant's failure to provide the statutorily required notice warning of its non-liability for injuries resulting from an inherent risks of equine activities disqualified the defendant from statutory immunity from civil liability for the injuries.  Reversed and remanded.

Minter-Smith v. Florida 864 So. 2d 1141 (Fla. 2003)

Defendant was convicted of unlawfully owning, possessing, keeping or training a dog or dogs with intent that such dog engage in dogfighting and he appealed. The Court of Criminal Appeals held that: (1) statute under which appellant was convicted was not unconstitutionally vague; (2) testimony of investigator was sufficient for jury to conclude that defendant was in violation of the statute that was not unconstitutional on ground that it was ex post facto as applied to defendant; (3) evidence as to poor conditions of dogs and their vicious propensities was relevant to issue of defendant's intent to fight the dogs; and (4) evidence gained by police officer pursuant to search warrant was not inadmissible. Affirmed.

Mitchell v. State 118 So.3d 295 (Fla. Dist. Ct. App. 2013)

The defendant in this case was convicted of animal cruelty for injuries his dog sustained after his dog bit him. Upon appeal, the court found that the prosecutor had erred by framing the argument in a manner that improperly shifted the burden of proof from whether the defendant had intentionally and maliciously inflicted injuries on the dog to whether the State's witnesses were lying. Since the court found this shift in burden was not harmless, the court reversed and remanded the defendant's conviction.

Pet Fair, Inc. v. Humane Society of Greater Miami 583 So.2d 407 (Fl. 1991) The owner of allegedly neglected or mistreated domestic animals that were seized by police could not be required to pay for costs of animals' care after it was determined that owner was in fact able to adequately provide for the animals, and after the owner declined to re-possess the animals. The Humane Society can require an owner to pay it costs associated with caring for an animal if the owner re-claims the animal, but not if the animal is adopted out to a third party.
Ramirez v. M.L. Management Co., Inc. 920 So.2d 36 (D. Fla. 2004)

In this Florida dog bite case, the appellant asked the court to limit the application of a case that held that a landlord has no duty to third parties for injuries caused by a tenant's dog where those injuries occur off the leased premises. The child-tenant injured in this case was bitten by the dog of another tenant in a park adjacent to the apartment complex where she lived. The appellate court reversed the grant of summary judgment for the landlord because the boundary of the premises is not dispositive of the landlord's liability.

Riley v. Riley 131 So.2d 491 (Fla. Dist. Ct. App. 1961)

Trial court ordered husband and father, in divorce decree, to maintain his life insurance policy naming his children as beneficiaries; he appealed.   Appellate court affirmed, finding no abuse of discretion.  Appellate court upheld original decree, which also vested in the wife title to "some poodle dogs."

Roberts v. 219 South Atlantic Boulevard, Inc. 914 So.2d 1108 (Fla. 2005)

Defendant brought his dog to work with him as the nightclub's maintenance man. As plaintiff walked by defendant's truck, he was bitten by defendant's dog.  The plaintiff than sued the nightclub for damages due to the bite.  The court granted summary judgment to the defendants stating that the facts of the case did not meet the four prong test that was needed to hold an employer liable for injuries to a third party.

State of Florida v. Peters 534 So.2d 760 (Fla.App. 3 Dist. 1988). This is an appeal from an order of the county court invalidating a City of North Miami ordinance regulating the ownership of pit bull dogs.  The ordinance in question, City of North Miami Ordinance No. 422.5, regulates the ownership of pit bulls by requiring their owners to carry insurance or furnish other evidence of financial responsibility, register their pit bulls with the City, and confine the dogs indoors or in a locked pen.  The court dismissed defendants claims that the ordinance violates equal protection and due process, and that the ordinance's definition of a pit bull is on its face unconstitutionally vague.
State v. Butler 587 So. 2d 1391 (Fl. 1991)

The Florida appeals court held that the lack of a pre-deprivation hearing prior to the seizure of respondent’s alligators for lack of a permit did not violate the due process clause of the Constitution. Since the state owned title to all wildlife, and since Butler did not have the required permit to possess the alligators, there was no protected interest requiring due process.

State v. Milewski --- So.3d ----, 2016 WL 231314 (Fla. Dist. Ct. App. Jan. 20, 2016) This Florida case involves the appeal of defendant's motion to suppress evidence in an animal cruelty case. Specifically, defendant Milewski challenged the evidence obtained during the necropsy of his puppy, alleging that he did not abandon his property interest in the body of the deceased dog because he thought the puppy's remains would be returned to him in the form of ashes. The necropsy showed that the puppy suffered a severe brain hemorrhage, extensive body bruises, and a separated spinal column that were consistent with severe physical abuse (which was later corroborated by Milewski's confession that he had thrown the dog). The trial court granted the motion to suppress and further found that law enforcement infringed on defendant's rights as the "patient's owner" when they interviewed the veterinarian and obtained veterinary records without consent or a subpoena, contrary to Florida law. On appeal, this court found that the Fourth Amendment does not extend to abandoned property. When Milewski abandoned his puppy's remains for the less-expensive "group cremation" at the vet's office, he gave up his expectation of privacy. As such, the court found that he was not deprived of his property without consent or due process when animal services seized the puppy's remains without a warrant. Further, this court found that there was no basis to suppress the veterinarian's voluntary statements about the puppy's condition or the necropsy report. The motion to suppress was reversed as to the doctor's statements/testimony and the evidence from the necropsy. The trial court's suppression of the hospital's medical records obtained without a subpoena was affirmed.
State v. Morival 75 So.3d 810 (Fla.App. 2 Dist., 2011)

Defendant moved to dismiss charges of two felony counts of animal cruelty. The District Court of Appeal held that systematically depriving his dogs of nourishment was properly charged as felony animal cruelty rather than misdemeanor.  Defendant fed his dogs so little that they suffered malnutrition over an extended period of time. This amounted to repeated infliction of unnecessary pain or suffering.

State v. Wilson 464 So.2d 667 (Fla.App. 2 Dist.,1985)

In this Florida case, the state appeals a county court order that granted appellee's motion to dismiss two counts of an information and which also declared a state statute to be unconstitutional. Defendant-appellee was arrested for having approximately seventy-seven poodles in cages in the back of a van without food, water and sufficient air. In her motion to dismiss, defendant-appellee alleged that the phrases “sufficient quantity of good and wholesome food and water” and “[k]eeps any animals in any enclosure without wholesome exercise and change of air” as contained in sections 828.13(2)(a) and (b) were void for vagueness. In reversing the lower court, this court held that the prohibitions against depriving an animal of sufficient food, water, air and exercise, when measured by common understanding and practice, are not unconstitutionally vague.

Tran v. Bancroft 648 So.2d 314 (Fla.App. 4 Dist.,1995)

In this Florida case, a tenant's next-door neighbor, who was bitten by tenant's dog when it leaped over fence and then attacked the neighbor on property not owned by landlord, brought a personal injury suit against the landlord.  The appellate court upheld a motion of summary judgment in favor of the defendant non-owner.   The court found that t he existence of a duty in a negligence action is a question to be decided as a matter of law.  Although the so-called "dog bite" statute, section 767.04, Florida Statutes (1993) controls actions against a dog's owner, actions against a non-owner must be brought upon a theory of common law liability.  Essentially, a landlord has no duty to prevent injuries to third parties caused by a tenant's dog away from leased premises.

WERTMAN v. TIPPING 166 So.2d 666 (Fla.App., 1964)

The plaintiffs, owners of a seven-year-old trained, registered full blood German Shepherd dog, sued the defendants for the loss of this dog from the kennels at the animal hospital owned and operated by the defendant. The dog had been boarded at defendant's place and while there escaped from the kennel and was never found. This case set the wheels in motion for companion animals damages in Florida when the court affirmed a verdict of $1000, for a purebred dog. The court declined in only applying the fair market value and held that recovery could include special or pecuniary value to the owner.

Wilkerson v. State 401 So. 2d 1110 (Fla. 1981)

Appellant was charged with violating Florida's Cruelty to Animals statute, Fla. Stat. ch. 828.12 (1979). He pleaded nolo contendere, reserving his right to appeal the trial court's order, which denied his motion to dismiss and upheld the constitutionality of the statute. The supreme court affirmed. Appellant argued that the statute was unconstitutionally vague and overbroad because the statute failed to provide guidance as to what animals were included and what acts were unnecessary. The supreme court concluded that people of common intelligence would have been able to discern what were and were not animals under the statute and that the legislature clearly intended that a raccoon be included. Additionally, just because the statute did not enumerate every instance in which conduct against an animal was unnecessary or excessive did not render the statute void for vagueness. The conduct prohibited was described in general language. Finally, because appellant's conduct was clearly proscribed by the statute, he did not have standing to make an overbreadth attack.