July 12th, 2013 - by DKRPA
Recently, residents of the Sandhurst neighborhood in Boynton Beach have reported that wild foxes have been moving into the neighborhood — and some of them are aggressive. If you live in an area where wild and possibly dangerous animals are encroaching on areas where humans live, you may be wondering if cities have a legal responsibility to take action.
So far, no serious injuries from the foxes have been reported, and wildlife experts have reportedly told residents that the foxes are only acting aggressively because of the season — many of the foxes have kits they are trying to protect.
However, residents of this quiet community between Woolbright Road and Boynton Beach Boulevard are concerned that the foxes could attack pets or young children. One area man now carries a stick with him whenever he walks his small dogs at night.
“There was a mama and a daddy and five little ones, yeah, and they’re not afraid of people,” explained his wife.
So, what is the city’s responsibility if one of these foxes should bite someone and cause serious injuries?
It depends on the wording of the city’s municipal ordinances. Municipal liability for injuries is often limited by the concept of sovereign immunity. That means that municipalities (generally cities, towns and counties), states and the federal government can be immune from injury lawsuits in many circumstances.
This is over-simplifying a bit, but the general idea is that if a municipal government is required by law (such as by a municipal ordinance) to take a specific action, and it fails to do so and that failure directly causes an injury, the municipality could be held liable for that injury. On the other hand, if representatives of the municipality are expected to use their judgment, the fact that they used poor judgment is generally not enough to hold the government liable.
The Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission does not remove so-called “nuisance animals” such as these, largely because relocating them may simply open up the area for habitation by different animals. If someone is bitten, the FFWCC recommends calling the county department of health.
If the city is unwilling or unable to control the nuisance foxes, residents can also hire a private nuisance animal trapper or seek a permit to trap the animals themselves.
WPBF.com, “Residents concerned about aggressive foxes in their neighborhood,” Angela Rozier, July 11, 2013
Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission, “Living with Wildlife”