My Pet Is A Person! The Status of Pets under Florida Law

My Pet Is A Person! The Status of Pets under Florida Law

My Pet Is A Person! The Status of Pets under Florida Law

Most people consider their pets members of their families. They care for their pets the same way they would care for children and make sure they are fed, watered, loved, and kept safe and comfortable.  In the state of Florida, pets are considered personal property. They should belong to someone and are the responsibility of that owner. Although you may feel like your pet deserves the same treatment as a person, that doesn’t mean that they are granted the same legal status as people under Florida law. There are different laws for different circumstances, and if you find yourself or your pet in a situation where you need legal assistance, don’t hesitate to contact an experienced Florida attorney.

Animal Abuse Cases

If you have been accused of abusing or neglecting your pet or if someone has harmed your pet, you may have to handle your case in court. Although pets are considered personal property, they are still living things and have to be cared for properly. Animal cruelty, neglect, and abuse are all illegal, and if your pet has been harmed by anyone in any way, your pet deserves justice. If someone is abusing, neglecting or being cruel to an animal, they may be subject to criminal prosecution. Animal cruelty convictions can result in substantial fines and jail time.

Custody Situations

When it comes to who gets a pet during a divorce or separation, pets are often treated as property. Ownership of the animal will typically be awarded to one person. If the determination of pet ownership can’t be settled in a marital settlement agreement, a judge will determine ownership. A judge will consider who purchased or adopted the pet, who cares for it, and who spends the most time with it in making his or her determination of post-dissolution ownership. Unlike children, pets are not usually shared between parents or owners. However, we have created settlement agreements in the past in which divorced couples do “share” ownership of the animal post-divorce.

Residential Issues

Residential pet issues can be tricky. Since pets are considered personal property, most people don’t think they should be charged extra rent or pet fees for having a pet in a rental home or apartment. Because pets can destroy property and structures, most landlords require a pet deposit or charge a higher amount of rent, subject to a few exceptions, such as the ADA. In cases where a pet has destroyed or harmed a person’s property, the pet owner is usually held responsible for that pet’s behavior and will be required to pay repair or replacement costs.

Animal Attacks

If a pet harms another pet or a person, a judge will likely hold the person civil liable. Pet owners are required by law to keep their pets on leashes and sometimes muzzles. If you have a pet that may not get along with other people or animals, it is your responsibility to keep that pet away from others. If your pet bites a person or another pet, you may be required to pay for medical treatment and even pain and suffering related to that case.

How Florida Laws Protect Pets And Pet Owners

If you are confused about how laws affect different cases, you should know that these laws were made to protect both pets and pet owners. As the owner of a pet, you are responsible for controlling that pet and making sure that it does not harm other people, pets or property. Because the laws about pets in Florida can be confusing, it is always best to hire an attorney if you ever need to go to court over an issue with your pet or someone else’s pet. An attorney will have a good understand of the law and know how each law applies to your type of case.

If you love your pet, it can be hard to see them as property. Although the state of Florida does consider pets as personal property, pet owners are still responsible for their care, and behavior. Hopefully, your pet will be involved in any type of accident or that you will ever have to go to court over your pet. Regardless, it is always a good idea to understand how the law works in your state. If you are confused about Florida laws and how they apply to pets and pet owners and your situation, feel free to give us a call.

* Please note that these posts are intended as a public service and are for informational use only.
* We are a Family Law Firm and do not deal with these issues outside of a Family Law Context.