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As a dog owner, there is nothing I love more than letting my pup off the leash to dart across the field after a lovingly destroyed tennis ball. But, you’ve got to be extra careful about exactly where you’re doing that, no matter how well you’ve trained your canine best friend.
Dog owners remain liable for any personal injuries their dog causes. This means that if your dog bites somebody, even by accident, you could find yourself in court, being ordered to pay up to tens of thousands of dollars for someone else’s medical bills.
Keep reading on to see some of the not-so-great situations you could find yourself in legally and financially if your unleashed canine companion does some unexpected damage to a passerby. But the moral of this story is simple: if you’re not on your own property, keep that dog leashed up!
Hidden Dangers of Dog Bites
Even the best trained and most loveable dog can sometimes find itself backed into a corner or in an unfamiliar situation in which it springs to the defensive. It’s possible that your dog sees a potential threat to you, their owner, and leaps to your defense unexpectedly. They might also find themselves being threatened by a stranger or another dog.
Regardless of the circumstances that lead to an altercation, if your dog attacks another animal or person and is not on a leash, as far as the law is concerned, it is completely or close to completely your fault.
Some of the complications that can arise from a dog attack or even the mildest dog bite include:
- Rabies (fatal!);
- Nerve damage;
- Hemorrhage (very serious!);
- Emotional trauma.
Any one of these conditions, aside from being very unpleasant for the person who experiences it, can also prove to be wildly expensive for you if you end on the wrong side of a personal injury lawsuit.
As if that wasn’t bad enough, depending on the state, you might also find yourself subject to criminal fines. If you live in a particularly strict state, such as California, there is even the risk that your dog could be put to death!
State Leash Laws
There are two important locales to bear in mind when trying to figure out how harsh the leash laws are in your area: your state law and your town or county policies. Pennsylvania and Michigan technically have the strictest leash laws on the books. But that is just technically.
Technically, all dogs must be “restrained” in those two states whenever they are out of their owners’ yards or not. But in Pennsylvania, “restrained” has been interpreted to include a broader range of definition than keeping your dog on a leash. A well-trained dog that responds properly to commands is considered restrained if they are with their owner in public, even without the leash.
Other states, such as North Carolina, have looser leash laws when it comes to daytime activities, but are very strict about keeping dogs on the leash at night. As with most state leash laws, the intent here is to crack down on roaming wild dogs.
When it comes to the consequences of a dog bite, state law varies even more wildly. Expanding on the previously mentioned California example, while an untrained puppy is not going to be facing too much time in the dog pound for nipping a stranger, if a trained attack dog bites somebody off their owner’s property in an unwarranted attack with severe injuries, the law does allow authorities to euthanize the animal at fault.
Cases like that reinforce the notion that keeping your dog on the leash isn’t just important for other people’s safeties, but it could also mean life or death for your dog.
Leash Laws and Liability
While state law still matters greatly as far as liabilities are concerned, almost regardless of where you are in the US, if your dog bites somebody (assuming that person isn’t actively burgling your house), then you could very well face some legal trouble. Some personal injury cases, if not settled, can drag on for years. Even if the eventual court-ordered damages don’t get you, the legal fees will. Remember, there is only one way to avoid all of these potential headaches. Next time you go out for the walk with Duke, don’t forget the leash!
About the Author: Cheryl Roy
While she has a solid education in law, Cheryl Roy wanted more than a job as a lawyer. She knew that people needed information and a better understanding of everyday legal matters. She began writing articles and guidelines to educate individuals and businesses. Now, she is collaborating with blogs, magazines, and outlets, being proud that her knowledge and her writing talent are helping everyone every day.