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Here’s the scenario: wealthy older woman drafts her will, and in it leaves her fortune to her cats for their lifetime, after which the money goes to the Butler. The Butler, not willing to wait that long, seeks to remove the cats from the equation, hence becoming next in line to inherit the wealthy woman’s fortune. While great for a Disney film, in Florida this could never happen, because animals are considered property, they cannot inherit money or property. So what happens to your pet if you die?!? Florida law has provided an option: A PET TRUST.

Many people consider their pets family, yet if not provided for after their deaths, pets can be discarded like trash. Florida Statute § 736.0408 was passed in 2004, and it states that a trust may be created to provide for the care of an animal alive during the settlor’s lifetime. The trust terminates on the death of the animal or on the death of the last surviving animal.

There are 5 basic pieces of information that you need in order for a proper pet trust to be drafted:

1. Identification: breed, DOB, age, and any paperwork that may help identify the pet/ chip registration numbers. This may include adoption paperwork or breeding records.

2. Veterinary information and medical history: Leave clear directions regarding medications and where they’re ordered/purchased from, special dietary requirements, and the name and office location for the veterinarian who has your pet’s medical records.

3. Caregiver: Designate whom will be your pets caregiver, including a couple backups. Make sure they know and consent to taking on the challenge should anything happen to you, and that they will provide loving care just as you would.

4. Paperwork: this is the actual trust documentation; remember, you cannot necessarily leave a gift to your pet in your will. Clearly outline your wishes regarding your pet, and make sure an experienced attorney reviews and/or draft. Additionally, make sure someone has copies of this documentation, so you can be sure it will see the sunlight in the case of your demise.

5. The Caregiver chosen may not necessarily be where the pet lives, albeit this would be ideal. But many people choose to board their pets in doggy day cares, long term pet resort/hotels, etc. Make sue this agreement is clear, executed by all parties, and have a backup plan in case the chosen facility changes owner ship.

No one likes to think about the realities of death but loving your pet and making sure that he/she/they are cared for long term is an important and selfless decision, which may save many headaches in the future.

The Model Penal Code (or MPC) is the examination of a criminals ‘mental state’. It is utilized in Florida when determining whether or not a crime was committed on purpose or not. Also referred to as ‘Mens rea’ in snobby circles, it is usually used to mean “culpability.” An example may help illustrate this theory, and why its so tough to hold a dog owner liable in criminal court when the unexpected happens.

Here is a multiple-choice question for you:

Devin owns a chihuahua named Killer. He received the dog as a gift from his parents, who named the dog. Devin thinks the name is funny because Killer is so gentle and shy that he runs away from the mail carrier. When Devin took Killer for a walk in the playground, he let him run around without his leash. When 3-year old Vern decides to pet Killer, the dog suddenly turns on the child and kills him. Can Devin be convicted of reckless murder in an MPC jurisdiction? (Since you are likely not a law student, Reckless murder means ‘recklessness & conscious disregard.’)

A. Yes, because he consciously disregarded the risk that Killer would attack a child.

B. Yes, because he should have known that chihuahuas are a killer breed.

C. Yes, because chihuahua owners are strictly liable for the acts of their pets.

D. Yes, if he realized that Killer was a dangerous dog.

A is wrong because ‘To consciously disregard the risk’, you have to be aware of the risk. Devin has no awareness that he owns a killer chihuahua’ in this example. Killer is described as “gentle and shy”.

B is wrong because “Should have known” is the standard for negligence. Devin is being charged with reckless murder. Now, someone who has a dog that has shown the propensity to bite or has bitten people in the past very well may be guilty of negligence for putting their dog in situations where the dog has an opportunity to behave as it has in the past; but here, Devin is clueless that Killer is an actual killer…

C is wrong because there is no such thing as strict liability homicide. There is, however, strict liability when is comes to a dog owner’s responsibility for when his dog bites someone or someone’s property, like another dog, but that is in CIVIL court, not criminal court. You cannot get jail time for that, but it I usually expensive…

D is correct because of the word “if”. Had Devin known his chihuahua was a bloodthirsty monster, he would be liable for reckless murder. Here, Devin was (as aforementioned) totally clueless, therefore he is not guilty for reckless murder.

Listen, when your dog attacks, its scary. Its scary for the victim and its scary for you. But facing facts and stepping up is not only responsible, but it can engender good faith. Don’t give away the baby with the bathwater though- there’s a lot of factors that contribute to a dog biting. Where were Vern’s parents? What was Vern doing to Killer? Was he pulling his tail? Was Killer off leash in a dog park or a children’s playground? Circumstances matter, and a good attorney can help you wade through the nitty gritty to get to a solution that is fair to all involved. While this example was an extreme, we hope it helps illustrate the seriousness – but not total bleakness – of a dog bite and its aftermath.

Fla. Stat. § 413.08 (1)(d) defines “Service animal” as an animal that is trained to do work or perform tasks for an individual with a disability, including a physical, sensory, psychiatric, intellectual, or other mental disability.

The work done or tasks performed must be directly related to the individual’s disability and may include, but are not limited to, guiding an individual who is visually impaired or blind, alerting an individual who is deaf or hard of hearing, pulling a wheelchair, assisting with mobility or balance, alerting and protecting an individual who is having a seizure, retrieving objects, alerting an individual to the presence of allergens, providing physical support and assistance with balance and stability to an individual with a mobility disability, helping an individual with a psychiatric or neurological disability by preventing or interrupting impulsive or destructive behaviors, reminding an individual with mental illness to take prescribed medications, calming an individual with posttraumatic stress disorder during an anxiety attack, or doing other specific work or performing other special tasks.

A service animal is not a pet. For purposes of subsections (2), (3), and (4), the term “service animal” is limited to a dog or, oddly, miniature horse. The crime-deterrent effect of an animal’s presence and the provision of emotional support, well-being, comfort, or companionship do not constitute work or tasks for purposes of this definition.

Lying about owning a service animal comes with consequences too, so before making a claim that is false in order to bring your pet into locations where they woud otherwise not be allowed, think twice! § 413.08 (9) says that a person who knowingly and willfully misrepresents herself or himself, through conduct or verbal or written notice, as using a service animal and being qualified to use a service animal or as a trainer of a service animal commits a misdemeanor of the second degree, punishable as provided in s. 775.082 or s. 775.083 and must perform 30 hours of community service for an organization that serves individuals with disabilities, or for another entity or organization at the discretion of the court, to be completed in not more than 6 months.

Florida Statute § 767.04 seems fairly harsh at first glance; except in cases where a dog bite victim ‘asked for it’ or provoked the dog, Owners of dogs are liable for harm done by their pet. It’s a theory of Tort law called ‘Strict Liability,’ which is exactly what is sounds like; you may be responsible for committing an action (or for your dog committing an action) regardless of what your mental state or intent was. Seems like there is not much room for error there, and yet, there are many situations in which the Owners of dogs do not owe a dime, even though their dog bit another person or animal.

One such loophole lies within the same statute, and reads “nor shall any such owner be so liable if at the time of any such injury he had displayed in a prominent place on his premises a sign easily readable including the words “BAD DOG.”

This theory is put to the test in Romfh v. Berman, 56 So.2d 127, 129 (Fla. 1952). Here, Berman willingly entered the property of Romfh and was awfully upon the premises as an invitee. While on the property, Berman’s two dogs attacked and bit Berman, forcing him to take shelter in a tree. Berman did nothing to provoke the dogs, however the court ruled that, because of the locality of the sign and Berman’s ability to read it, Berman assumed the risk and was guilty of contributory negligence.

Interestingly, the later case of Flick v. Malino, 374 So. 2d 89 (Fla. 5th DCA 1979), the court narrowed this decision, and held that Flick, a 3 year old girl who was attacked by the dogs owned by Malino, was entitled to recover, because she could not read the “BAD DOG” signs posted on the property. ” the purpose of the statutory sign requirement is to give “genuine, effective and bona fide” notice “that a bad dog is on the premises.” Carroll v. Moxley , 241 So.2d 681, 683 (Fla. 1970) ; see also Romfh v. Berman , 56 So.2d 127, 129 (Fla. 1951), overruled in part by Sweet v. Josephson , 173 So.2d 444 (Fla. 1965) (“The sole purpose of the legend was to put one entering the premises on notice that there were dangerous dogs on the place.”). “Not every sign, even if seen, is sufficient to put a potential victim on notice of the risk he assumes by being present on the premises.” Carroll, 241 So.2d at 683. Basically, if the victim is too young to read the sign, the risk is not assumed and the “BAD DOG” exception does not apply.

One of the more well-known circumstances in which liability could not be avoided arises from the well-known case of Stickney v. Belcher Yacht, Inc., 424 So.2d 962 (Fla. Dist. Ct. App. 1983); The “Beware of Dog” sign. The facts of this case were as follows: Belcher Yacht had a security dog with a dog handler, a security guard named Herner. There was a prominently posted “BEWARE OF DOG” sign on the premises. Herner had no training regarding the handling of the security guard dog. Stickney and some friends entered the Belcher Yacht premises on a Sunday to take his boat out for a fishing trip; the premises were locked but was instructed to enter the premises through the rear guardhouse. After entering the premises, Stickney discovered the keys for his boat were missing, so Stickney walked to the guard house to retrieve them where he was greeted by Herner and the security dog. Long story short, Stickney was bitten by the guard dog in a very…. sensitive area of his anatomy. When Stickney filed suit the issue, of course, was whether the “BEWARE OF DOG” sign shielded Belcher Yacht from liability for the security dog’s bite. The court ruled against Belcher, stating that an economic invitee who is bitten by a dog while on the premises is liable to his customer.

From a legal perspective, if you are a dog owner it would behoove you to take steps to protect yourself in case of a dog bite. L. Turner Law recommends two steps to protect yourself from lawsuits: 1) post the “BAD DOG” sign, even if you don’t think your dog is necessarily “bad”. Many dog bites are situational; and 2) inform you rental insurance or homeowners’ insurance that you have a pet. A huge amount of coverage can be available for a nominal monetary line item on your policy. If you are the owner of a dog that bites, do not despair; L. Turner Law is here to manage and reduce your liability.

Breed and weight restrictions are prevalent in condominiums and apartments. Many people with well-trained pets are prevented from living in the communities they would like. A well-known new exception to these rules are emotional support and service animals registrations., but even with these exceptions some boards or HOAs push back; sometimes they accuse would-be renters or condo purchasers of faking prescriptions or fraudulent registrations! These accusations don’t have to be taken lightly, and HOAs and Boards can be in big trouble for making false allegations- you have protections under federal law.

he Fair Housing Act Section 504 of the Rehabilitation Act of 1973, requires that a renter or buyer of a residence be granted a reasonable accommodation for an emotional support or service animal, which allows the animal to live with the buyer or renter regardless of the landlords pet policy. Federal laws specifically allow emotional support animals to travel and live with their handlers, and the State of Florida reinforces these federally granted rights. In the case at bar, my clients dogs are service animals, severely increasing her protections and the allowances that are to be made for her. The Federal Fair Housing Act, at 42 U.S.C. § 3604(f)(2)(A) (1994) (“FFHA”), makes it unlawful “[t]o discriminate against any person in the terms, conditions, or privileges of sale or rental of a dwelling, or in the provision of services or facilities in connection with such dwelling, because of a handicap of . . . that person[.]” According to subsection (3)(B), discrimination includes “a refusal to make reasonable accommodations in rules, policies, practices, or services, when such accommodations may be necessary to afford such person equal opportunity to use and enjoy a dwelling[.]” For purposes of the act, “‘[h]andicap’ means . . . (1) a physical or mental impairment which substantially limits one or more of such person’s major life activities, (2) a record of having such an impairment, or (3) being regarded as having such an impairment[.]” 42 U.S.C. § 3602(h) (1994). (Emphasis Added). Additionally, as of July 1, 2020, SB 1084 was signed into law by Governor Desantis and became effective. This law requires a patient to establish the need for an ESA by delivering to the housing provider supporting information from a licensed healthcare practitioner, a telehealth provider, or other similarly licensed practitioner, including an out-of-state practitioner who has provided in-person care or services to the patient on at least one occasion.

Pet sitting, trainers, grooming and daycares are BIG business. The pet-care industry makes over $594 million annually! Major chains such as Petsmart and Petco don’t just sell doggy apparel, treats and accessories; they often have dog boarding and grooming facilities in-house. These other services have a great responsibility in caring for your pet, but sometimes this duty of care is neglected.

An outbreak of hidden camera videos have been hitting social media; groomers hitting dogs with brushes and pet sitters physically abusing the animals in their care are prevalent. Sometimes, the people trusted to look after and love our precious pets are secret abusers, and they cannot get away with it.

Legally, Animals, despite their designation as property, are more often than not considered a part of the family. Many owners will pay over and above the fair market value of the animal during its lifetime for veterinary care, grooming, food, shelter, etc. When an animal is handed over to a third party for some sort of service, there is a duty of care imposed that can lead to liability if breached.

L. Turner Law, P.A. has several active cases against these wrongdoers. In one case, a pup in boarding after surgery developed an infection that cost him his life; he was 9 months old. In another case we are in settlement negotiations with, a Pet-store in house groomer, who was negligently hired and trained, cut off one of the pets toes. Both of these cases are worth over six figures; a professional breaching the duty of care owed to its customers is no small matter. Don’t be deceived or discounted. You and your pet deserve only the best, high quality service for all who you come into contact with.

Animal lovers often care for the neighborhood strays, despite not actually owning these animals. You or your neighbors may feed feral cats and stray dogs; but there are some people who find these strays to be a menace. Food tins being strewn about, water bowls left to become mosquito breeding grounds or a rapid increase in the animal population can come with consequences, such as other neighborhood pests and rodents. So, how do we address the problems that come with feral cats humanely.

The state of Florida provides for laws against animal cruelty which prevent any person from tormenting or depriving an animal of necessary sustenance or shelter, or unnecessarily mutilates, or kills any animal. This means if someone in your neighborhood is shooting the cats, which is an unfortunate reality that is far too common, they may be exposed to punishment by a fine.

The problem can be addressed legally and generationally, by catch and release programs which spay and/ or neuter the neighborhood cat population, slowly decreasing the number of kittens born each season. Several rescues, charities and some shelters provide these services, and many vets will provide pro-bono or low-bono spay or neuter programs. People can also trap the cats and bring them to a local shelter, wherein there are often volunteers and fosters who assist in rehoming or caring for cats (albeit there never seem to be enough to keep up with the population).

You may also be a proponent for keeping the cats in the neighborhood, and some neighborhood HOA’s or Associations do make this decision. Neighborhood Feral cats naturally control the rodent population without the utilization of pesticides. Many neighborhoods that consist of the elderly also care for animals communally, as there have been health benefits linked such as reduced anxiety and a sense of purpose.

Although some state and local governments have enacted laws attempting to resolve some of these issues, most states and municipalities do not have any laws governing the care and ownership of feral cats. Only thirteen states and the District of Columbia have any laws that even mention feral cats, and Florida is not among them. Drafting legislation to be introduced as proposed ordinances for your city is a great way to change this statistic.

Legally, in the state of Florida there is no penalty for feeding or caring for neighborhood feral cats, albeit this may create a duty if the care crosses into the definition of ‘ownership’. ‘Owners’ are often expected to vaccinate and spay and/or neuter their property, which pets are defined as.

However, harming animals or removing them using cruelty or killing/maiming the feral cats is against the law (see Fla. Stat.’s § 828.12 and § 828.13). If someone in your neighborhood is hurting animals or treating a nuisance problem without regard to the law, report them. Just remember that reporting a problem is only half of the issue; utilize the suggestions above to enact permanent change and assist your community in addressing the issues facing it when it comes to feral cats.

A classic, bad faith move in a nasty divorce or breakup is to limit or eliminate a father’s visitation rights with their child. But as co parents, this is not OK and is often not in the best interests of your shared minor child. Children deserve to have two parents when possible. So what can you do? How do you get your baby back?

The first question that needs to be answered is, were you and your ex married? This one detail can affect your position substantially.

In Florida, when a mother is married and gives birth, the law assumes the child’s father is the mother’s husband. If the mother is married but does not list her husband’s name on the child’s birth certificate, paternity must be established. If your name is on the child’s birth certificate, and both you and your ex agree that you’re the father, then there is nothing in dispute and paternity is established. A smart mother will not lie about this because it could limit her rights to recover child support if she has a right to same. Additionally, the you may have health insurance benefits or government benefits that are available for the child. If both parties agree that you are the father, then you and your ex can sign a Voluntary Acknowledgment of Paternity form.

If there is no acknowledgment, then you are what is referred to as a putative father. A putative father is a man whose legal relationship to a child has not been established, but claims to be the father or who is alleged to be the father of a child who is born to a woman to whom he is not married at the time of the child’s birth. In order to be declared the father, either you or your ex need to commence a court proceeding to establish paternity. Your first step is to complete Florida Supreme Court Approved Family Law Form 12.983(a), Petition to Determine Paternity and for Related Relief (11/15). Once this form is competed, you will need to notify your ex by serving them with a copy of the Petition, that way everyone involved knows that your seeking assistance from the courts to confirm your custodial rights. A judge can establish paternity by court order. Based on the evidence, the judge may issue an order that says the man is the child’s father. A judge can also establish paternity in other kinds of court actions, such as divorce or dependency.

What if you are unmarried when the child was born, but later got married? If the mother is unmarried when the child is born, but later marries the child’s father, the husband becomes the legal father. When this happens, the father’s name is not automatically added to the child’s birth certificate, and paternity may need to be established in the event of a divorce.

Don’t risk your rights to your child Just because you didn’t give birth, doesn’t mean that you are any less a parent. If you need to establish paternity or need assistance in negotiating fair time sharing, reach out to L. Turner Law, P.A.’s family division. We focus on Dad’s rights, and we will show that fathers are just as important as mothers in your child’s life.

It’s every kids fantasy. Skipping through a pet store, looking through the enclosure windows at adorable, wide eyed and furry little puppies. Everything about them is cute; their little yips and when their feet kick during belly rubs. They’re all so wonderful- which shall you pick?

Then it happens- your eyes meet from across the room. You walk up to this defenseless little pup staring back up at you and think to yourself, “that’s the one.” A sales associate walks up and you ask him, “how much is that doggie in the window?”

No matter what the answer is, if you fall victim to the disturbing trend of pet stores selling sick ‘puppy-mill’ bred dogs, it’s going to cost a LOT more than you think. A sick puppy can cost you hundreds or THOUSANDS in medication and veterinary bills. Not to mention the emotional turmoil you and your children go through whilst watching these precious creatures fight for their lives. The worst part is that, often times, they lose the fight due to their tender age.

Many puppies are bred by the Amish in the middle of the country, and the breeders see these puppies as livestock. Cages are often stacked, so if you are luckily enough to get one of the puppies from the top of the stack, you may get a healthy pet. But if you purchase one of the dogs that was at the bottom of that stack of cages, you can be facing kennel cough, giardia and parvo, all of which are deadly for young puppies.

So what do you do about it? Florida Statute 828.29, colloquially known as Florida’s ‘Puppy Lemon Law’ provides for several remedies. Pet stores are required to provide a 14 days warranty against illness or contagious disease, or a 1 year warranty against hereditary or congenital disorders in the puppies they sell you, and must reimburse you for veterinary costs-at the vet of your choice- up to the purchase price of the animal within that same timeframe. You also have the right to a refund of the purchase price with sales tax and any veterinary costs if the puppy was unfit for purchase at the time it was sold to you and a letter from a veterinarian is provided stating as much.

Do your research when in the market for a puppy. Read reviews, ask smart questions, and request all the records to confirm that your new pet will be a member of your family for years to come, and not just mere days. If something is wrong, tell the pet store! A reputable pet store will help you handle the medical bills and refund or replace sick puppies. Other less reputable pet dealers will threaten you, attempt to avoid liability by hiding behind unconscionable and illegal contracts or (as in a recent case I had) call the police and have you arrested for trespass!

Once I fell walking into a hibachi grill. It was a crowded Saturday night and there were at least ten tables, all full of hungry families watching rice get fried and onion tower volcanoes. I hadn’t taken but four steps in through the door and WHOOSH- down I went. I was maybe fifteen or sixteen at the time, so the first feeling to course through my mind was “Oh gosh; how EMBARRASSING”. I picked myself up and brushed myself off, and followed the hostess to our table, a little worse for wear but mostly just red cheeked. My sixteen-year-old self did not realize that this is not the way to handle a slip and fall. The next day my back hurt, and I had a huge purple bruise blossoming over my tailbone.

Had I taken a moment to release my embarrassment and mentally scan my body, I may have realized that I had bruised my tailbone. I was lucky; sometimes victims of a fall can fracture their coccyx if they hit the ground hard enough. The hibachi grill had breached their duty to me and my family by failing to keep their premises in a safe condition. Had I needed physical therapy or surgery, that hibachi grill would have been liable. And that would have been OK; most restaurants carry insurance for just an occasion, but even if they don’t, that does not release them from liability for breaching a duty owed to you or any of their patrons. The same goes for most homeowners. If you are a guest in someone’s home and they fail to mitigate a known risk or hazard, you may have a claim against their homeowners’ insurance. Which again, is OK- that’s why people carry insurance; to protect themselves and you in the event of an accident.

There is a myriad of factors that may come into play when you fall. Was the floor wet or slippery? Were there wet floor signs? What were you wearing- high heals or sandals? Was the flooring level and if there was carpet, was it flat? We have worked many slip and fall cases, and have recovered for clients in many circumstances. While the factors mentioned above come into play, they typically only negate liability; they do not eliminate it. Hitting your head, broken bones and aggravating other pre-existing injures can all have serious consequences on you body, health, ability to work and the ability to enjoy your life. This translates into compensation for medical bills and your pain and suffering.

Here is the A.C.T.I.O.N list of steps to take after a slip and fall:

  • Assess.
    Scan your body; does it hurt anywhere? Do you need to call emergency services?
  • Cause.
    Why did you fall?
  • Take note.
    Take pictures and record the names of witnesses around you.
  • Inform.
    Let the homeowner or the management of the store or restaurant know about the incident and request that their insurance information be made available.
  • Organize.
    Keep track of medical bills and therapy treatments. Collect your medical charts and keep a diary of your recovery and how your feeling.
  • Negotiate.
    Reach out to the person or facility at fault and try to recover your damages.

An attorney can be incredibly helpful during this process. Reaching out early can increase the strength of your case and an attorney can maximize your recovery. At L. Turner Law, P.A., we do not charge any fees or costs in pursuing these actions on your behalf, unless we recover funds for you.

There is no risk in seeking to be reimbursed for the negligence or wrongdoing of another which results in injuries to you or a family member. If you slip and fall, take ACTION and call L. Turner Law, P.A. as soon as possible- we will fight to make it right!