Pet owners should be aware that if their dog bites a person, they can face civil suits. The news often has stories of victims that suffer dog bite attacks. These stories relate the injuries that are suffered, the impounding of the dog and the consequences the owner is facing. Dog owners facing possible civil suits, as a result of their pet biting another person, should consider consulting an experienced dog bite lawyer. The attorney that specializes in dog bite injuries can make clear the applicable law and how this could affect them.
Possible Dog Owner Defenses
The responsibility of the dogs actions are not always on the dog owner, after the dog bites a person. There are some instances, when the dog bite occurs with cause, though every state has their own specific dog bite laws.
- The Victim was aware of the risk or was careless: When the victim knew the dog might bite and chose to ignore the risk, or accepted the risk, the owner might not be held at fault. This will depend on the state laws. The owner that has a “beware of dog” signs posted or makes certain the person was aware of the danger. One instance could be the professional boarding or grooming business, where the risk of being bitten by an animal could be taken as a part of the job. They may not be able to sue.
- Provoking a dog: Provoking a dog, whether intentional or unintentional, the dog can be expected to protect its self from harm. In this case the dog owner may not be at fault, if the dog was being teased, tormented or hit by the victim that suffered the dog bite. The owner may not be found liable. In some cases where the dog bites a victim that unintentionally provoke the dog, such as invading its space, food or even stepping on its paw, it may be found the dog owner is not liable, since the dog felt it was in danger.
- Trespassing: When a person suffers a dog bite, while trespassing or in the act of an illegal activity, the dog owner may not be at fault. This is a grey area in some respects, whether the owner is at fault. Juries have had no sympathy for the person trespassing to commit a burglary and suffered a dog bite attack, but when the person that suffered a dog bite was a child or adult that was entering the property with no harm intended it may have a different outcome.
How Dog Owners can Avoid a Civil Suit
The dog owner can take action to protect themselves and their dog from legal actions. This requires being vigilant in preventing the dog from biting any person. While in some instances it cannot be avoided, there are some precautions that the dog owner can take, especially if the dog may bite.
- Use Warning Signs: Dogs are protective of their territory naturally and by putting up warning signs or “beware of dog” signs, it will warn people prior to entering your property they could be at risk, and this can protect the dog owner legally. Most people will not just enter the property that has a warning sign that places them in danger of a dog bite.
- Gate Locks: Locking the gate shows an effort to keep people out of danger and that the dog owner is protecting a person from possibly being bitten. This would also mean that they would have to be let onto the property by the owner or they are purposely trespassing on the property, without permission of the owner.
- Do not let aggressive dogs near children and strangers: When the owner knows the dog may bite, the animal should be removed from the property or contained in a way they cannot be near a stranger or child. This can mean putting the dog in another room or in a kennel, while the child or adult is present on the property.
Stay Out of Bad Situations
Dog owners do not want to be in a situation where their pet has bitten another person, who did not mean harm. Due to negligent dog owners, in the past and present, the responsible dog owner, will need to prove their dog had a legitimate cause to bite. This is where being proactive is the best form of defense, post signs, lock the gate or put the dog out of range where they could feel threatened. This will protect both the owner and the dog from being put in a situation where the dog could bite, the possible civil lawsuit and impounding of the dog.