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Cruise Ship Liability for Dog Bites at Sea


Each year, thousands of Americans are viciously attacked by dogs. For this reason, as well as a host of practical concerns, most cruise lines prohibit pets from coming aboard with their owners. Interestingly, due to disability laws, service animals are generally accepted on a lot of cruises. And while most service animals are incredibly well-trained and rarely attack, it can happen.

For years, airlines have been dealing with the problem of determining whether animals brought on board are indeed service animals or merely untrained pets. This is now becoming an issue on cruise lines as well. As one report indicates, a child was bitten on a Southwest flight, causing outrage and concern among passengers and the online community. Fortunately, if you are bitten by a dog on a cruise ship, you may have options.

General Liability for Injuries on Cruise Ships 

In general, if you suffer serious or catastrophic injuries on a cruise ship, you may be entitled to compensation. Federal maritime laws permit seafaring passengers to recover compensation where the cruise line is negligent in some way. Typical forms of negligence include:

  • Failing to maintain bulkheads and passenger compartments
  • Failure to clean spills
  • Poor mechanical operations
  • Misplaced items or other hazards
  • Malfunctioning doors and railings
  • Physical and Sexual Assaults by other passengers or crew

Why Dog Bites May Be Considered Negligence 

If a cruise line allows an animal on board, the cruise is taking an affirmative step. By choosing to allow a dog, the cruise line is making a choice about the safety of passengers. If it turns out the dog is aggressive and it attacks people, then you may be able to recover compensation from the cruise line if its choice to allow a dog on board was negligent. Of course, like everything in the law, it will depend greatly on the specific facts of your case.

Florida’s Dog Bite Laws 

If you are injured on board a ship in or around Florida, then you may also be able to sustain a legal action against the dog owner, based on Florida’s dog bite statute. Under the state law, the owner is strictly liable for your injuries, so long as:

  • You were legally present in the place where you were bitten
  • You did not provoke the dog
  • There were no affirmative warnings that you ignored (e.g. “Bad Dog Signs”)

How to Know When Florida Law or Federal Maritime Laws Will Apply 

The application of state law and federal law is very nuanced.  Federal maritime law maybe supplemented by state law so long as there is no conflict between the federal maritime law and the state law you want to apply.  The determination of what constitutes a conflict is a very tricky thing.

The best way to find out what options you have is to contact an experienced maritime injury lawyer who has experience recovering compensation for victims who are injured on and offshore. For more information or to schedule a consultation, call Michael F. Guilford, P.A. in Florida. The call is free, so there’s no risk and no obligation. Get the answers you need today.


Contact the Law Offices of Michael F. Guilford, P.A. for a free initial consultation with Michael Guilford. Flexible appointment times are available. If you can't come to us, we will come to you. Call toll free 866-473-2636 or describe your injuries in an email.

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