Florida’s Pet Ownership Laws – Things You Need to Know

The vast majority of pet owners – whether it be a dog, cat, bird, iguana, snake, or other animal – think of their pet as a real member of the family. But there are certain laws and requirements for pet owners in Florida that you should understand in order to be a responsible pet owner and reduce your risk of any legal concerns. Florida breaks down their definition of different animals by class designations. A Class III animal is legal to own in the sunshine state without a permit. Class III animals include dogs and cats, reptiles, rabbits, squirrels, certain kinds of ferrets, most birds, and non-venomous and unprotected amphibians.

Class II animals, which require an ownership permit issued by the state, include certain breeds of monkeys, wolves, badgers, cougars and cheetahs, alligators and a few more. 

Class I animals are illegal to possess in Florida and include chimpanzees, gorillas, elephants, lions, tigers, bears, Komodo dragons and leopards. 

If you’re thinking about buying a dog or cat in Florida, there are requirements which the seller must meet in order to offer the animal for sale. A veterinarian licensed by the state and accredited by the United States Department of Agriculture must show certification of a variety of test results for things like roundworms, hookworms, hepatitis, canine parvo, rabies, distemper and some others. Cats being offered for sale must also be accompanied by a certified exam for Calici Virus, Panleukopenia, and Feline viral rhinotracheitis. County-operated or city-operated animal control agencies and registered nonprofit humane organizations are exempt from this section.

If a seller represents the pet as being healthy and the buyer subsequently discovers the animal requires veterinary care for a serious illness, the buyer may be able to return the pet for a refund or another similar animal, depending on certain parameters like when the purchase transaction occurred. The buyer may also be reimbursed for certain veterinarian expenses depending on the specific circumstances. 

It is important to remember that Florida views a pet animal as personal property, and filing a lawsuit against a veterinarian who you may feel injured or caused your animal’s death is not the same as doing so on behalf of a human family member. 

Florida’s New Animal Protection Statute

In February 2023, Florida’s senate minority leader, Lauren Book, wrote and filed a new animal welfare bill intended to provide additional layers of oversight and reporting of animal abuse or neglect. One section of Florida Statute 2023.932 was to make it illegal for an animal to be transported in a vehicle in which they were not properly restrained or contained, allowing them to stick their head out the window. We’ve all seen this on the road, and even pickup trucks with a dog in the truck bed. 

Senator Book received considerable backlash on this section of her bill and subsequently deleted or substantially modified that portion of the new law. 

But as of May 5, 2023, the bill died in the Florida Senate from lack of support. 

Miami-Dade County in Florida is the only county in the state that bans the ownership of American Pitt Bull Terriers under the state’s Dangerous Dog Law. 

Attorney and animal lover Joseph Cerino of The Law Firm of Joseph Cerino knows that pets truly do become an important member of the family that owns them and suggests pet owners understand all Florida laws and regulations before investing in a pet. “Responsible pet owners should know all of the requirements of pet ownership to avoid any unnecessary legal hassles in the future,” he said. 

If you have any questions or concerns about specific animal laws in Florida, Attorney Joseph Cerino is always available at 239-561-2820 or by visiting https://www.cerinolaw.com/.

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The law office of Joseph Cerino handles all matters of litigation, concentrating in family law including divorce, custody, child support, paternity, alimony, property division and domestic violence, as well as, criminal defense and appeals in Southwest Florida.

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