Animal Attacks Most Common in East & Little Havana Neighborhoods
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Miami is pet heaven. In fact, in 2014 Miami was ranked 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.
For the past four 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 have reached over capacity and are left with no choice but to euthanize animals. Perhaps, a problem even larger than overpopulation is the aggression many of the local animals are exhibiting.
61 year old Miami resident, Cheryl Oswald, 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. Rojas’s chihuahua was killed and Rojas received 100 stitches in her arm. Upon hearing the news Rojas’s 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 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 their pets bring, but it appears pets are bringing more than joy to the neighborhood. In the past 3 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 is currently assessing 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 despite these efforts problems still persist. The best course of action 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, 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 have been reported between 2013 and 2016 in Miami. These 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.
- 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 has liability regardless of whether the dog previously has demonstrated viciousness and 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, you should report the incident to Miami-Dade County Animal Services.