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by Jenniffer Pickard
Bringing a pet home is a joyous occasion. But, what most pet owners forget is that they’ll be answerable for all the actions of their pets. In the U.S. alone, thousands of people are bitten by animals every year, most of them being pet dogs. Over 4.5 million people suffer dog bites every year, and the most number of dog bite sufferers are children.
The legal grounds for a dog bite claim differ from place to place. They vary from state statutes, county and city ordinances, and court decisions. In the case of dog bite injuries, mostly, the victim is liable for recovering damages from the owner, if he/she can prove any of the following:
- The dog that bit the victim was outside the owner’s residence boundaries and was not leashed.
- The dog has already bitten someone else in the past and the dog owner was aware of the same.
- The victim was bitten as a result of the negligence or a misleading act by someone else. Example, if the dog owner promised that dog would be kept away from guests, but failed to do so.
Even those who do not own the dog may be liable for paying damages if it is proved that they had knowledge of the dog being vicious, but still allowed it to come into contact with the sufferer.
Liability of Dog Owners
If your dog attacks a person, you could face a personal injury lawsuit by the victim, and in cases where there’s no appropriate insurance coverage, you may end up paying for the sufferer’s medical expenses and other losses over. This will be above your own legal expense charges.
If you’re a dog owner, it is important to understand the dog bite laws in your state as they may differ from place to place. However, the following three basic principles determine whether or not the owner is liable for injuries or losses caused by the dog.
- One bite laws
- Strict liability laws
Under one bite law, the dog owner is not liable to pay for the damage or injury if it is the dog’s first bite and if he/she had no reason to suspect that the dog was inclined to act aggressively. However, this law is not applicable if it is proved that the dog owner was aware of the possibility or should have known that the dog is foreseeably dangerous to others. This law is practiced in over a dozen states including Georgia, Texas, and New York.
The Strict liability laws state that irrespective of the precautions an owner has taken to tame the pet dog, if it is proved that the injury to the victim is caused by the dog, then the owner is liable for the damages. States including California, Michigan, and New Jersey follow this law.
Negligence is a legal concept that focuses on the reasonability of an individual’s action depending on the circumstances. For example, the law of Negligence may apply in cases where the dog owner lets his dog move around unleashed and he bites someone. Also, cases where the leash or fencing used to tame the dog isn’t secure enough to hold the pet and allows him to go out and bite someone. In such cases, the dog owner can be held responsible under the law of Negligence.
Precautions for Dog Owners
Dog owners can take the following precautionary measures to deter incidents of dog bites:
- A sudden change in the behavior of your dog should alarm you. If he is aggressive or you are having a difficult time taming him, it is always better to take necessary precautions for your and others safety.
- Putting up signs with a warning regarding the presence of a dog in the vicinity is the first step towards safety.
- Ensure that your fencing is strong and the latch works perfectly. Make sure your dog is always on leash when out in public places, regardless of the leash law prevalent in your state.
Remember, if the dog owner is found guilty of carelessness in case of an unfortunate dog biting incident, the strict law of negligence automatically applies.
The Concept of Dog Insurance
For a dog owner, it is always beneficial to include dog bites in his/ her renter’s or homeowner’s insurance policy. It is important to ensure you’re protected against any kind of mishap if you have a dog. An insurance coverage is the best financial protection available for a dog owner. In case of a dog bite, an attorney from the insurance company will fight your lawsuit.
If an animal, especially a dog, has bitten you or any of your loved one, contact a good attorney and get legal help. If you’re a dog owner, do not take chances and get an insurance cover against dog injuries regardless of your dog’s behavior. Taking proper care of the pet and ensuring that the pet is free from disease is the first step towards ensuring your safety and of the ones around you.
Jenniffer Pickard is a freelance content writer, who has specialized in creating unique and high-quality content. She is currently focusing on the law industry and has been writing & blogging for an experienced personal injury lawyer, Jonathan Rosenfeld, Founder of Rosenfeld Injury Lawyers. She always loves to explore things when it comes to writing and blogging. In her free time, she loves to hang out with friends and enjoys photography on her cam.
This article neglects the Rabies component. In many parts of the US and Canada rabies vaccination is required by law. In many places proof of current rabies vaccination will asked for. Even if the dog is up to date on it's rabies may still be quarantined for a period of time (usually 10 to 14 days) while it is observed for signs of rabies. Some jurisdictions may allow the quarantine to take place at the dog's home, if it passes inspection of secure fences. Worse, if the dog is not up to date on rabies vaccinations the only way to tell if it has rabies is to euthanize it and examine the brain. Rabies incidence reports for that jurisdiction may have no bearing at all on whether the dog is euthanized. Rabies titres may show the dog is indeed carrying protective levels of vaccine but the titre results may not be accepted by some Health Boards, meaning the dog might be euthanized anyway.