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Are property owners liable for alligator attacks in Florida?
This past month, we learned of yet an alligator-related tragedy in Florida. According to law enforcement, an 80-year-old woman who fell into a pond at a country club in Sarasota County was fatally attacked by two alligators.
Alligators are attracted to any place they can find water – preferably fresh water. That means that in addition to swimming in swamps, marshes and rivers, they also find their way into man-made ponds, pools and lakes.
Florida has over a million wild alligators and, sadly, some end up in the waters located in theme parks, country clubs, golf courses and residential communities.
What should property owners do to help prevent tragedy?
Property owners can’t guarantee too much when it comes to wildlife. However, that doesn’t mean that they aren’t required to take steps to protect people from alligator attacks or other wild animal hazards.
Just as with any kind of potentially dangerous situation, property owners should take reasonable precautions to warn people that there may be alligators in a particular area on the property and to prevent them from falling victim to them. In addition to signage warning of the possible presence of alligators, they should also place fencing or other types of barriers around waters where alligators may be present.
Reasonable precautions apply to those invited or allowed on the property but also those who are drawn to the property, such as children.
Property owners in Florida should also be aware of the “nuisance alligator program” implemented by the Florida Fish & Wildlife Conservation Commission. Owners can contact the FWC to remove or relocate alligators they spot on their private property.