Pitbulls have a reputation for being vicious, dangerous dogs that shouldn’t be allowed near children nor owned as pets. Because of this, Pitbulls have long been the target of breed-specific legislation (BSL) in various parts of the United States and worldwide.
If you’re a fan of the breed and live in Florida, you may be wondering if it’s legal to own one in the Sunshine State.
Generally, yes, it’s legal to own a Pitbull in Florida. However, it’s illegal to own Pitbulls in Miami-Dade, and several counties also have strict regulations for Pitbull ownership.
The Miami-Dade Pitbull Ban
Miami-Dade is the only county in Florida to ban Pitbulls. The ban started in 1989 when a Pitbull attacked a 7-year-old girl named Melissa Moreira while she was helping unload groceries. After the attack, owning, keeping, or harboring a Pitbull within the county limits became illegal.
The ban covered dogs that fall under the American Kennel Club’s standards for Pitbulls. This includes the American Staffordshire Terrier, Staffordshire Bull Terrier, and similar breeds. Both pure and mixed-breed dogs are affected.
Violation of the ban is punishable by fines, impoundment of the Pitbull, and even criminal charges.
This legislation predates Florida’s statewide prohibition of breed-specific legislation,1 enacted in 1990. As a result, Miami-Dade County’s ban was “grandfathered” in and remains legally valid.
In 2012, Miami-Dade voters upheld the Pitbull ban.
Florida Counties With Pitbull Restrictions
While Miami-Dade is the only county with a total ban on Pitbulls, several counties have imposed severe restrictions on owning one:2
|Coral Gables||Section 10-67 & 10-68||Confinement, Muzzle|
|Chipley||Section 6-135 & 6-136||Confinement, Registration|
|Marianna||Section 10-37||Confinement, Muzzle|
|Florida City||Section 10-70 Thru 10-72||Confinement, Registration, Insurance|
|Sunrise||Section: 4-49, 4-50||Confinement, Registration|
|Palm Beach County||Section: 21-31-e||Ban from Parks and Recreational Areas|
Below is a closer look at each type of restriction on Pitbull ownership:
This requires Pitbull owners to be confined securely either indoors or in a locked and fully enclosed pen with the following requirements:
This also makes it illegal for Pitbulls to be walked within 50 feet of schools.
When taking a Pitbull outside, they’re legally required to be muzzled and leashed at all times. The leash can’t be longer than six feet.
Counties with this ordinance require Pitbull owners to get liability insurance to “protect the public and to afford relief from the severe harm and injury which is likely to result from pit bulldog attacks.”
The owner must also prove their financial capability to pay damages up to $300,000.00 for property damage, bodily injury, and other incidents.
This requires Pitbull owners to register their dogs with the county’s animal control office. If it’s a newly acquired pit, you only have 72 hours to register it. Aside from details about the owner and the Pitbull, registration also requires proof of insurance.
Ban from Parks and Recreational Areas
In Palm Beach County, it’s illegal to bring Pitbulls in any parks and public recreation areas.
The legality of owning Pitbulls in Florida is a complex issue, with no statewide ban but some local restrictions still in place.
If you live in the counties we discussed above, especially Miami-Dade where the breed is banned, be sure you understand and follow the ordinances in your area. Aside from helping you avoid hefty fines and legal trouble, it’s also a way to keep your Pitbull safe from others who still discriminate against the breed.
Featured Image Credit: Christopher Ayme, Unsplash