Though we love them like members of our families, dogs are animals. And like any animal, a dog can get “spooked” for reasons their owner can’t see or explain.
For example, a gentleman in Bonita Springs was walking to watch a Florida State basketball game at a friend’s house when a car suddenly backfired. A dog that was sitting on the front porch of the house the man was walking past jumped up, startled, and ran toward the man.
Moments later, the dog’s owner came rushing out of her house when she heard the man screaming at the dog, “Get off!” The dog had latched onto his calf and refused to let go. 20 stitches later, the man still needs physical therapy to rebuild the muscle in his calf. The dog’s owner said it had never attacked anyone before and wouldn’t even leave the yard when not secured on a leash.
Because of the woman’s ignorance of her county’s leash laws, she was charged with negligence and forced to pay damages to the man who was bitten. Each county in Florida has different leash laws. While they’re all similar, it is important to know your county’s specific set of laws. Here are important parts of the leash laws for restraining your pet in southwest Florida, specifically Lee County.
Florida Leash Law Part 1: Keep Your Dog Leashed
Bottom line: your dog MUST be on a leash if it’s outside. It is unlawful for a domestic animal to stray, run, go, or roam at-large in or upon any public street, sidewalk, school grounds, in the area of school vehicles, beaches, parks, or on the private property of others without consent of the property owner.
While accidents happen— leashes break, dogs perform Houdini-level escapes from fenced areas, or they simply slip between your legs when you open the door to get the mail. However, if your dog should escape the confines of your property, it is your obligation to immediately make every effort to return the dog to your property.
Florida Leash Law Part 2: The Leash Must Fit
If your pet’s leash and collar are too loose, it’s very possible that it can escape from you if it’s startled or excited. Per the law in Lee County, “Animals must wear a specifically manufactured and properly fitted collar or harness for purposes of attended, temporary tethering for recreational purposes.”
While the animal must be restrained, it’s also illegal to restrain them at the cost of their comfort. It’s illegal to attach a leash or lead directly to the animal’s neck without a manufactured collar or harness to attach it to. You also can’t use chain, choke or prong collars to tether your petl. Additionally, no animal should be restrained for an extended period of time. You can’t attach a tether, rope, or change to a tree or building in order to keep your dog in place. It’s considered unkind and potentially even dangerous to the pet.
Florida Leash Law Part 3: Keep Your Dog Under Control
This might sound like a no-brainer, but you must keep your dog close to you whenever you’re outside of your home. No matter how well trained your dog might be, it’s illegal for it to be out of your hands, so to speak. That means no letting go of the leash to let your dog get a little extra exercise, no letting it out without a leash at night to relieve itself if your yard isn’t fenced, and no frisbee or fetch in a park unless the dog’s properly tethered.
Per the law, in order for a dog to be considered under direct control of its owner, it must be “within immediate and continuous physical control of its owner at all times, and statutes dictate that any leash, cord, or chain used to control the dog must not exceed six feet.”
Interested in seeing the full animal ordinance laws for Lee County? You can read it here.
Being the victim of a dog biting incident can not only have dramatic physical repercussions, but also emotional side effects. Have you been involved in a dog biting incident, or know someone who has? Lusk, Drasites & Tolisano will work hard for the residents of Southwest Florida who have been hurt by dogs that were not properly restrained. We know Lee County’s leash laws inside and out and will work diligently to get you or your loved one the compensation you so greatly deserve.