Pythons in Florida: Strict Liability for Exotic Animals

A Florida couple stood trial this month, facing third degree murder and manslaughter charges after their starved pet python tragically killed their toddler. In addition to criminal charges, many states, including Florida, have laws that impose strict liability on owners of exotic animals that seriously injure or kill.

Strict liability means legal responsibility for damage regardless of fault. In Louisiana, Civil Code Article 2321 governs liability with respect to wild animals and ordinary household pets. Article 2321 states that “the owner of an animal is answerable for the damage caused by the animal” but requires a showing that the owner “knew or should have known that his animal’s behavior caused the damage.” The article, however, excludes owners of dogs, stating dog owners are strictly liable for injuries caused by their dogs.

In 2004 the Louisiana Supreme Court interpreted Article 2321 to require “an ordinary negligence standard for owners of all animals, except dogs, whose owners continue to be governed by a strict liability standard.” Thus, today in Louisiana, oddly a dog owner may be held strictly liable for his dog’s behavior; whereas, the owner of any other animal falls subject to an ordinary negligence standard.

If you or a loved one were attacked by another’s exotic animal or household pet, you may have legal rights. For questions, contact Broussard, David & Moroux at 1-888-337-2323 (toll free) or 337-233-2323 (local).

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