Animal Attacks Most Common In East And Little Havana Neighborhoods

Miami is pet heaven. In fact, in 2014, the Miami New Times ranked Miami the best in the country for dogs. It’s hard to walk two blocks down any given street without encountering a furry friend of some sort. For some, a world full of dogs and cats sounds like something out of a beautiful dream, but for Miami, it’s becoming a bit of a frightening problem.

In recent years, the city has struggled with an animal overpopulation problem. Animals line the shelters in Miami-Dade County, which bring in an average of 100 cats and dogs per day. The number of stray animals has increased exponentially as pet ownership has risen. Shelters reach overcapacity and are left with no choice but to euthanize animals. Perhaps a problem even larger than overpopulation is the aggression that many of the local animals are exhibiting.

Miami resident Cheryl Oswald, 61, stepped out of her home to investigate why her neighbor’s dog wouldn’t stop barking. She was immediately overwhelmed by two stray German shepherds that threw her to the ground and mauled her. It took Cheryl over a month to recover. In a similar story, Mrs. Rojas was walking her Chihuahua through West Miami when she was attacked by two stray American bulldog mixes. Mrs. Rojas’ Chihuahua was killed, and Mrs. Rojas received 100 stitches in her arm. Upon hearing the news, Mrs. Rojas’ husband suffered from a heart attack and passed away.

Overpopulation of pets is a problem that extends to all of Miami, but nowhere is it more evident than in Little Havana. Little Havana is a pet neighborhood through and through. The Cuban neighborhood is home to nine pet shops, five veterinary hospitals and six groomers. Residents bask in the joy that their pets bring, but it appears that pets are bringing more than joy to the neighborhood. Over the span of years, 203 animal bites were reported in Havana. Attacks extended out to neighboring parts of the city. Downtown Miami reported 85 animal bites, and East Coral Gables reported 81. Animals have inflicted a range of injuries from damaged nerves and torn skin to bacterial infections.

The city has assessed how to approach the situation. In 2012, an amendment was passed that raised property taxes so that the average Miami homeowner paid roughly $20 a year for increased animal shelter care. It appears that despite these efforts, problems still persist. The best course of action that Miami residents can take to avoid an animal attack is to refrain from approaching stray pets. Residents can report stray animals by dialing animal services at 3-1-1.

If you’re bitten by an animal, then you’re at risk for rabies and bacterial infections like tetanus, and getting prompt medical attention is critical.

Miami Hot Spots For Animal Bites

The map above indicates the areas in which animal bites were reported between 2013 and 2016 in Miami. The following locations – some not so surprising – had the most reported bites:

  • Miami Pet Adoption and Protection Center – 32 bites
  • Elite Ballz Reptile Store – 10 bites
  • Grand Doubletree Hotel – 7 bites
  • Colonial Acres Mobile Home Park – 7 bites
  • Flamingo South Beach Apartments – 6 bites

Miami neighborhoods with frequent reports of animal bites:

  • East Little Havana
  • The Hammocks
  • Little Havana
  • Downtown
  • Liberty Square
  • Palmetto Estates

Who’s Liable For Animal Bites?

Florida law addresses responsibility when dog bites occur. The owner of a dog that bites someone who is in a public location or who is legally in a private location bears liability for any harm. The owner is liable regardless of whether the dog previously demonstrated viciousness or whether the owner was aware that the dog might become vicious.

An individual is on private property legally if they’ve been invited by the owner, whether the invitation is made outright or is implied.

A dog owner also would be liable if the dog bites someone who is performing duties laid out by postal regulations or state laws. Outside of an owner’s private property, dogs in Miami-Dade must be leashed at all times. But animal bite victims can bear some responsibility as well. The law notes that negligence by the bitten person reduces the owner’s liability by a percentage commensurate with any contributing negligence.

In most cases, a sign that includes the words “bad dog” relieves a dog owner of liability for bites that occur on the owner’s property. The law notes only two exceptions: a victim under the age of 6 or a bite caused by a negligent action or failure to act by the owner.

If you’ve been bitten by a cat or dog, or if your pet has bitten someone, then you should report the incident to Miami-Dade County Animal Services.