Accidents and Animals: Pet Hit and Run Laws

 

To most people, a pet is another member of the family. They do everything that they can to keep their pet safe and happy. It’s reasonable to expect others to be careful to keep pets safe, too. Unfortunately, tragedies with pets and vehicles are all too common.

Too many families lose a loved one when their pet is involved in a tragic vehicle accident. You might wonder if there are any laws in place to protect pets and whether you need to work with a personal injury attorney if your pet was injured. Because we put such a high value on the safety and security of our pets, it makes sense that there are laws in place to protect our pets. Here’s what to know about Florida pet hit and run laws.

dog in street

Pet Hit and Run Laws

It’s illegal to flee the scene if you hit a pet while you’re operating a vehicle. If you hit a pet, you must stop your car and remain at the scene. You must either make contact with the pet’s owner and exchange information or call the police. It’s a misdemeanor in Tampa and in the entire State of Florida to commit a hit and run involving a dog or other pet.

How Florida’s Pet Hit and Run Laws Work

For the purposes of Florida’s hit and run laws, a pet falls under the category of personal property. Even though a pet is so much more than personal property, the rules that apply to all types of personal property also apply to dogs, cats, and other animals for the purposes of hit and run laws.

It’s Against the Law to Flee the Scene

Florida law 316.061 requires a driver to stop their vehicle and return to the scene anytime they are in an accident that involves a pet. To comply with the law, you must stop your vehicle as close to the scene as you can. You must return to the scene and remain there until you do the things that you have to do under Florida law 316.062. For your own safety, and to comply with the law, it’s important to park your vehicle in a way that you stay out of the way of traffic as much as possible.

Once you stop your vehicle, you must give your contact information to the property owner or in this case, the pet owner. You must give them your name, address, and vehicle registration number. You must show them your license if they ask. If any person is physically injured, you must render aid or call for medical help. If there’s any chance that someone is physically injured, it’s important to call for emergency responders right away.

What’s the Penalty for a Pet Hit and Run?

It’s a second-degree misdemeanor to flee the scene of a pet accident. The penalties may include up to 60 days in jail and a fine of up to $500. If there are other factors at play in the hit and run, the charges may be more serious, or you may face additional charges. You have a constitutional right to a trial and the right to call witnesses. If you’re convicted, it’s up to the judge to determine the appropriate sentence given all of the circumstances of the case.

How Does Civil Liability Work for a Driver Who Hits a Dog or Cat?

A driver who is to blame for an accident involving a dog or a cat may be responsible to the pet owner for their damages. Each driver in Florida must carry at least $10,000 in property damage liability in case they’re at fault in an accident. If they’re at fault for hitting a pet, their insurance can cover their personal liability for the related damages. If the damages exceed $10,000, the driver may have to pay for those damages out of pocket if they don’t have additional insurance.

Personal injury claim damages may include veterinary bills. If a pet dies from their injuries, it can also cover burial and the cost of a new pet. Any financial loss that the pet owner has because of the accident may fall under the driver’s property damage liability.

Florida’s Dog Leash Laws

In addition, to hit and run laws regarding pets, all counties in the Tampa area have dog leash laws. There are no state laws requiring dogs to be on a leash. But all of the counties in the Tampa area have a dog leash law of some kind:

Pinellas County –  Section 14-63 of the Code of Ordinances says that dogs may not run at large

Hillsborough County – County ordinance 4-27 says that a dog must be under the owner’s immediate control at all times including a leash, fence or cord that’s sufficient to restrain the dog.

Hernando County – A dog may not go astray or run at large on a public street, sidewalk, right of way or other public or private property. Pets must be leashed and under the owner’s direct control.

Pasco County – Section 14-97 of the Code of Ordinances says that dogs may not wander at large on a public street, roadway or private property.

Remember, Florida laws work to compensate a pet owner when the driver is to blame for the accident. While drivers must obey the law and operate carefully, pet owners also have a duty to keep their pets safe and stop them from wandering in the road. Florida law looks at the entire circumstances to determine whether fault lies with the driver, the pet owner or with both parties. For example, if the driver is speeding, but the pet owner failed to keep the pet secure, both parties may share blame for the accident. In that case, Florida’s comparative fault laws may apply.

How Can a Personal Injury Lawyer Help?

At Jack Bernstein, Injury Attorneys we understand that your pet is part of the family and we will use our experience to ensure you get justice if your pet is injured in an accident. We will help you through every step of this trying time to ensure you are able to recover the compensation you deserve.

If your pet has been injured in a car accident, call us at (813) 333-6666 or fill out our contact form to schedule your free case evaluation. There is no fee unless we win.

About the Author

Jack G. Bernstein, ESQ.

For more than 35 years, personal injury lawyer Jack G. Bernstein has protected the rights of individuals who have been injured in a variety of circumstances. Mr. Bernstein is a member of the Florida State Bar Association, the Hillsborough Bar Association and the Clearwater Bar Association.

The information contained herein is intended for informational purposes only and should not be construed as legal advice. Seek competent legal counsel for advice on any legal matter.