Pug Mugs: Miami Considers Dangerous Dog Registry and Mug Shot Gallery

There is an interesting law that has been proposed in Miami-Dade to require online registry of “dangerous dogs.” The law would require registration of any dogs or other pets that attack or bite people in the same way that sex offenders register to public disclosure. The registry could have significant implications for tort law and the liability for dog bites. One commissioner is even proposing a dog mug shot gallery.

The failure to register would produce a potential fine of $1,000. It would also require owners of dogs designated as “dangerous” to obtain $50,000 worth of insurance.

Commissioner Jose “Pepe” Diaz wants to add a canine mug shot and bio to detail the dog’s history of bite or chasing people in a “menacing fashion.”
A dog would be considered dangerous if it attacks another animal or a human without provocation and causes severe injury or death, or if it approaches a human in a menacing fashion or apparent attitude of attack.

The implications for tort law would be interesting.
The common law treats these cases under a strict liability standard. An owner is strictly viable for a dog with known vicious tendencies. This is sometimes called (inartfully) the “one free bite rule” since after the first bite, an owner has obvious knowledge. However, it sometimes does not require a bite to have such knowledge. Indeed, these laws can serve as such warnings.

One of the most infamous cases involved two lawyers. Lawyers Marjorie Knoller and Robert Noel were successfully prosecuted after their huge “Presa Canario” dogs mauled and killed neighbor, Diane Whipple, in the hallway of her San Francisco apartment building in January 2001. Whipple was bitten 77 times and the dogs nearly severed her vertebrae.

Jurors found Marjorie Knoller’s husband, Robert Noel, guilty of involuntary manslaughter, and found Knoller guilty of second-degree murder.

The common law rule also applies to wild animals. Defining some animals as wild can be done with reference to statutes or the lack of animus revertendi (the habit of return). The most common category in the United States is the possession of wolves or part-wolf animals as pets.

The registry would create a regulatory listing of animals with dangerous propensities — making the owners more vulnerable to strict liability claims. Florida has an interesting statute on dog bites that imposes strict liability but folds in contributory fault as a matter of proximate causation.

767.04 Dog owner’s liability for damages to persons bitten.—The owner of any dog that bites any person while such person is on or in a public place, or lawfully on or in a private place, including the property of the owner of the dog, is liable for damages suffered by persons bitten, regardless of the former viciousness of the dog or the owners’ knowledge of such viciousness. However, any negligence on the part of the person bitten that is a proximate cause of the biting incident reduces the liability of the owner of the dog by the percentage that the bitten person’s negligence contributed to the biting incident. A person is lawfully upon private property of such owner within the meaning of this act when the person is on such property in the performance of any duty imposed upon him or her by the laws of this state or by the laws or postal regulations of the United States, or when the person is on such property upon invitation, expressed or implied, of the owner. However, the owner is not liable, except as to a person under the age of 6, or unless the damages are proximately caused by a negligent act or omission of the owner, if at the time of any such injury the owner had displayed in a prominent place on his or her premises a sign easily readable including the words “Bad Dog.” The remedy provided by this section.

If the law spreads across the country, it could create a regulatory shortcut on strict liability. It is not the convention standard of care statute, but rather an actual regulatory classification related directly to cause of action. A court would have to decide whether the registry is material to the claim and subject to disclosure before the jury.

Source: Miami Herald

16 thoughts on “Pug Mugs: Miami Considers Dangerous Dog Registry and Mug Shot Gallery”

  1. One of the most infamous cases involved two lawyers. Lawyers Marjorie Knoller and Robert Noel were successfully prosecuted after their huge “Presa Canario” dogs mauled and killed neighbor, Diane Whipple, in the hallway of her San Francisco apartment building in January 2001. Whipple was bitten 77 times and the dogs nearly severed her vertebrae.

    Jurors found Marjorie Knoller’s husband, Robert Noel, guilty of involuntary manslaughter, and found Knoller guilty of second-degree murder.


    You can keep a Pug in an apartment building if the apartment allows pets.

  2. OS, your post reminded me of something. Long long ago I used to work in a children’s library (and at the time I was a child). One of the volunteers there (a grown man, married to a librarian) volunteered as well. He had a German Shepherd named Trooper. Trooper was truly best friend to this guy. Yet one day, Trooper DID tear out his owner’s throat; the guy survived after a month in hospital and three surgeries. AND went back to being best friends with Trooper again. I never figured it out. I was only ever scared of one kind of dog: German shepherd. I think it was a neurosis on my part (those dogs were, to me, closely associated with the Gestapo images).

    Strangely, another small snip of memory from that era shows this same guy, pre-bite, “playing with” his nephew, a kid my age, by stringing him up by his thumbs for a minute or two. I cannot remember where this took place; I was both terrorized and embarrassed for some reason. AND the kid was very fond of his uncle and regarded this “play” as a “boys will be boys” activity — and the kid was very nice, and was and remained a friend of mine (once defended me, years later, when it became necessary).

    It occurred to me just now that perhaps Trooper was responding to something he had seen or was seeing at the time of the attack. We never got much detail about how it happened; the whole town just said, “WOW, Trooper bit [name omitted]! That’s weird!” 🙁

  3. One could argue that taking a dog away and putting it down without any sort of hearing as BettyKath mentions here I would suspect might be a new area of case law.

    Since dogs are considered to be property and if the city or county takes away and puts the dog down it would be tantamount to depriving the owner of his/her property without due process of law. Might be an interesting case on appeal.

  4. Sara, I’m sorry you don’t like dogs. And, yes, they can be annoying if their owners aren’t properly trained in how to handle them.

    As to putting a dog down at first bite, I think there should be an investigation looking at the circumstances. For example, a person who appears to be threatening a child or other family member is asking for defensive action, including baring of teeth, growling and even biting, from the family dog. Home invaders should not complain if they get bitten by the watch dog. I’m sure there are other examples.

  5. bettykath,

    I hate owners that do not leash their dogs where they are supposed to, or have leashes that are a mile long. Sometimes I am just walking on a sidewalk or a trail, making sure to distance myself the farthest from the dog, yet the dogs are too interactive, and invade my personal space and peace. They want to sniff you or do whatever it is a dog is looking for . Even the friendly dogs can be annoying a lot of times, as they cannot read the body language of people. I try not to look at them, so they won’t read my gaze as a threat or a signal to want to interact. I try to be careful with my perceived body language towards the dogs, to minimiz unwanted interaction, yet, they happen. And these are the friendly ones. Imagine how traumatic it is if the dogs were manacing. Dogs just have that personality.

    As far as this proposed law, it is a waste of time. I believe that dogs that are so dangerous as to bite, should be put down in the first offense.

  6. our labrador retrievers (indoor labs) will lick the hell out of ya, but, never bite unless the human does something stupid like getting themselves between the dog and ourselves in a threatening manner. mostly the big chocolate will bark like a huge bass bad dog, but neither would bite unless absolutely necessary. they’d likely hide behind me if someone threatened me LOL. big babies. of course, i would never leave a small child alone with any dog, even the labs.

  7. Some dogs seem to be psychologically incapable of biting people. Bassets and Pugs for example. We have a Pug. I sometimes pretend to beat on my daughter and she will yell for the dog to “bite him!” The pug runs in circles and makes squealing noises as he paws at my leg.

    When we had our German Shepherd, “Trooper,” he would have ripped out my throat if I had done that.

  8. I really do not understand what actual benefit society could be afforded by this dog registry website. Compared to sex offender / kidnapper registrations dogs do not apply to work in schools, walk freely around the city, interacting with others, or whatever. It also does not protect anyone any better than how a person ordinarily would contend with any dog. Teeth and viscious growling = bad dog, tail wagging and friendly behavior = good dog.

    This would only serve to punish the owners more efficiently than before.

  9. bettykath, I love dogs. And, what you say is sometimes correct. However, having worked numerous dog bite civil cases, your unequivocal comments about bad dogs being because of bad owners or victims being the fault is ludicorous. Having been a juvenile probation officer I can also state Father Flanagan’s statement about there being no bad boys is also horsesh!t.

  10. Bad dogs are the result of bad owners. Otoh, many bites are caused by people who don’t know how to “read” dogs or they otherwise instigate what may be a defensive action by the dog.

    A dog is tied up. A kid with a stick stands just outside the dog’s reach and pokes him repeatedly with a stick. Dog retreats. Kid steps in closer to poke some more. Dog nips the kid. Kid runs home crying. Parents all upset about the vicious dog and wants him “put down”. Those who saw what happened were also kids who knew better but had no power to stop the antagonism of the dog. They served as witnesses for the dog. No lawyers or courts.

  11. there are laws in some places that already take issue with dangerous dogs. Owners must post the ‘Bad Dog’ signs etc. A registry with pictures…? WHO!? would have time or inclination to peruse the most wanted of dogs list? And lets be real….I know what my dog looks like….yours? they all look the same to me…

    How about a bad owner registry? Owners who breed or own animals to become dangerous by intention or neglect should be warned 1x maybe and then barred from ownership etc. THAT registry could be quite useful if established w/pics and ids and sent to breeders….sellers….vets…local law enforcement….etc. It would also establish a firm protective stance on animals that would undercut dogfighting, irresponsible breeding farms and other animal abuses and that would tangibly reach those who think less than nothing of animals (and probably people….). Perhaps it would be a locus of enlightenment regarding the neglect that teaches fear or the risks of intentional infliction of training a dog to do harm….and that adds up to less dangerous and healthier animals all around. And an established channel of information that would be less likely to fall on deaf ears or careless people.

  12. When a legislative body passes laws like this it’s time to realize they are no longer needed.

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