THE PIT BULL DILEMMA
Imagine going to visit your rental property for a check up or to deliver a 3 day notice and to your surprise your tenant recently got a new roommate – a pit bull or some other similar dangerous breed. Other than run, what else should or can you do? Your tenant’s dangerous dog may be more than just a worry – it could be a legal liability. ( See our blog post here about Landlord liability for dog bites)
In general, a pit bull is a dangerous breed and to own one may likely be in violation of many city and or county codes and ordinances.
So what can be done about a tenant’s dangerous dog or other pet?
Step 1: Check your local code and ordinances. For example: It is illegal in Miami-Dade County to own or keep American Pit Bull Terriers, American Staffordshire Terriers, Staffordshire Bull Terriers, or any other dog that substantially conforms to any of these breeds’ characteristics, and there is a $500 fine for acquiring or keeping a pit bull dog . Broward County has not been successful in passing a law banning pit bulls. However in the City of Lauderhill, while they don’t ban pit bulls, they do have a pit bull regulation for dogs that have previously attacked, requiring its owner to maintain significant insurance.
In 1990, Florida legislators banned any municipality from passing legislation that targets a particular breed — laws often referred to as breed-specific legislation, or BSLs. Such a ban against pit-bull type dogs only survives in Miami-Dade County and any other county whose county wide ordinance pre-dates the state law.
Step 2 : So long as the tenant is not claiming their pit bull is an assistive animal, if your local code considers a pit bull a dangerous breed, then you can insist that the tenant immediately remove the pit bull or be subject to a 7 day notice of termination of lease. However, if there are no local ordinances regulating the pit bull then so long as the animal is well behaved, you are out of luck and your only option is not to renew the lease.
Going forward: To control the decision of having or not having pit bulls or other dangerous breeds on your property, you should consider adding the following language to your prospective tenant application form:
Pets are permitted only on certain properties at the sole discretion and written approval of the Property Owner and upon signing a “Pet Addendum” to the lease. Only small to medium sized, non-violent, common domesticated animals will be allowed on any property that permits animals. Farm animals, snakes, other reptiles, exotic animals, and any large or aggressive animal will not be approved including but not limited to: Rottweiler’s, American Staffordshire Terriers (pit bulls), American Pit Bull Terriers, Dobermans and German Shepherds.
Of course – you must waive any animal restriction in a case where an animal is proven necessary to accommodate a person with a disability.
We will blog at a future date on how to address a request from a tenant who insists that their dangerous breed – assistance animal live with them.
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