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Quick Overview of Dog Bite Strict Liability Statutes

Rebecca F. Wisch


Michigan State University - Detroit College of Law
Publish Date:
May 2006 (updated 2010)
Place of Publication: Michigan State University - Detroit College of Law
Printable Version

Quick Overview of Dog Bite Strict Liability Statutes

 2012 Note: This page is no longer being updated. Please see http://animallaw.info/articles/State%20Tables/tbusdogbite.htm

 

This article provides a list of the states that impose strict liability to dog owners for any damages suffered by any person as the result of a dog bite.  Approximately 35 states and D.C. have some form of strict liability for dog bites or other personal injury done by dogs.  The main feature of these statutes is that liability is assigned regardless of the dog's former showing of vicious tendencies or the owner's knowledge of the dog's viciousness.  In general, the only two exceptions arise under these statutes: (1) provocation of the dog by the victim; and (2) governmental agencies (i.e., law enforcement) who are using dogs in the apprehension of criminal suspects or in the investigation of a crime.  Links to the actual text of the statute are provided by clicking on the state name.

 

State

Citation & Link

What Dogs (all dogs, loose or dangerous dogs)?

What Kind of Damage (bite or any injury)?

What places?

Provocation exclusion?

Exclusions other than provocation?

 

Alabama

 

 

AL ST 3-6-1

Any dog

Bite or injure

A place where victim has a legal right to be

Not expressly provided

Mitigation of damages provision: The owner of such dog shall, however, be entitled to plead and prove in mitigation of damages that he had no knowledge of any circumstances indicating such dog to be or to have been vicious or dangerous or mischievous, and, if he does so, he shall be liable only to the extent of the actual expenses incurred by the person so bitten or injured as a result of the bite or injury.

 

 

Arizona

 

 

AZ ST 11-1025

Any dog

Bite only

Is in or on a public place or lawfully in or on a private place, including the property of the owner of the dog

Proof of provocation of the attack by the person injured shall be a defense to the action for damages. The issue of provocation shall be determined by whether a reasonable person would expect that the conduct or circumstances would be likely to provoke a dog.

 

Any governmental agency using a dog in military or police work if the bite occurred while the dog was defending itself from a harassing or provoking act, or assisting an employee of the agency in any of the following:

1. In the apprehension or holding of a suspect where the employee has a reasonable suspicion of the suspect's involvement in criminal activity.

2. In the investigation of a crime or possible crime.

3. In the execution of a warrant.

4. In the defense of a peace officer or another person.

 

 

California

 

 

Cal Civ Code 3342

Any dog

Bite only

While in a public place or lawfully in a private place, including the property of the owner of the dog. (A person is lawfully upon the private property of such owner within the meaning of this section when he is on such property in the performance of any duty imposed upon him by the laws of this state or by the laws or postal regulations of the United States, or when he is on such property upon the invitation, express or implied, of the owner).

Not expressly listed in statute, but one case has held that defenses of assumption of the risk and comparative negligence (provocation). “The defenses of assumption of the risk and contributory negligence may still be asserted” in an action brought under section 3342. (Johnson v. McMahan (1998) 68 Cal.App.4th 173, 176 [80 Cal.Rptr.2d 173].)

Trespassers (not lawfully on owner’s property)

Nothing in this section shall authorize the bringing of an action pursuant to subdivision (a) against any governmental agency using a dog in military or police work if the bite or bites occurred while the dog was defending itself from an annoying, harassing, or provoking act, or assisting an employee of the agency in any of the following:

(1) In the apprehension or holding of a suspect where the employee has a reasonable suspicion of the suspect's involvement in criminal activity.

(2) In the investigation of a crime or possible crime.

(3) In the execution of a warrant.

(4) In the defense of a peace officer or another person.

(c) Subdivision (b) shall not apply in any case where the victim of the bite or bites was not a party to, nor a participant in, nor suspected to be a party to or a participant in, the act or acts that prompted the use of the dog in the military or police work.

(d) Subdivision (b) shall apply only where a governmental agency using a dog in military or police work as adopted a written policy on the necessary and appropriate use of a dog for the police or military work enumerated in subdivision (b).

 

 

Colorado

 

 

CO ST 13-21-124

Any dog

Bite only

While lawfully on public or private property (a person shall be deemed to be lawfully on public or private property if he or she is in the performance of a duty imposed upon him or her by local, state, or federal laws or regulations or if he or she is on property upon express or implied invitation).

Provocation

(a) While the person is unlawfully on public or private property;

 

 

(b) While the person is on property of the dog owner and the property is clearly and conspicuously marked with one or more posted signs stating "no trespassing" or "beware of dog";

 

 

(c) While the dog is being used by a peace officer or military personnel in the performance of peace officer or military personnel duties;

 

 

(d) As a result of the person knowingly provoking the dog;

 

 

(e) If the person is a veterinary health care worker, dog groomer, humane agency staff person, professional dog handler, trainer, or dog show judge acting in the performance of his or her respective duties; or

 

 

(f) While the dog is working as a hunting dog, herding dog, farm or ranch dog, or predator control dog on the property of or under the control of the dog's owner.

 

 

 

 

Connecticut

 

CT ST 22-357

Any dog

Any damage to person or property

Presumably any place

Provocation - teasing, tormenting or abusing such dog. If a minor, on whose behalf an action under this section is brought, was under seven years of age at the time the damage was done, it shall be presumed that such minor was not committing a trespass or other tort, or teasing, tormenting or abusing such dog, and the burden of proof thereof shall be upon the defendant in such action.

Trespasser or committing other tort

 

Delaware

 

 

DE ST T. 7 Sec. 1711

Any dog

Any injury, death or loss to person or property

Presumably anyplace

Provocation - teasing, tormenting or abusing the dog.

A person who, at the time, was committing or attempting to commit a trespass or other criminal offense on the property of the owner, or was committing or attempting to commit a criminal offense against any person

 

D.C.

 

DC ST 8-1808 and DC ST 1812

ONLY dogs at large

Injures

Presumably any place

Not provided

Not provided

 

Florida

 

 

FL ST 767.04

Any dog

Bite

In a public place, or lawfully on or in a private place, including the property of the owner of the dog

Any negligence on the part of the person bitten that is a proximate cause of the biting incident reduces the liability of the owner of the dog by the percentage that the bitten person's negligence contributed to the biting incident. However, the owner is not liable, except as to a person under the age of 6, or unless the damages are proximately caused by a negligent act or omission of the owner, if at the time of any such injury the owner had displayed in a prominent place on his or her premises a sign easily readable including the words "Bad Dog."

None other than provocation/trespass

 

Georgia

 

 

GA ST 51-2-7

ONLY vicious or dangerous animals who are AT LARGE by negligence of the owner

Any injury

Statute does not limit, but may not include owner’s property b/c animal must be “at large”

Provocation

Not listed

 

Hawaii

 

 

HI ST 663-9; 663-9.1

Dog (or other animal); can be owner or harborer of dog

Any personal or property damage

Any place

Provocation (§ 663-9.1)

Trespassers not protected (§ 663-9.1)

 

Illinois

 

 

IL ST CH 510 Sec. 5/16

Dog (or other animal)

Attacks or injures

In any place where victim may lawfully be

Without provocation

None other than provocation

 

Indiana

 

 

IN ST 15-5-12-1

A dog

Bites

Any person who is peaceably conducting himself in any place where he may be required to go for the purpose of discharging any duty imposed upon him by the laws of this state or by the laws or postal regulations of the United States of America

Not specifically provided

The dog is owned by:

(1) the United States;

(2) an agency of the United States; or

(3) a governmental entity (as defined in IC 34-6-2-49);

and the dog is engaged in assisting the owner or the owner's agent in the performance of law enforcement or military duties.

 

 

Iowa

 

 

IA ST 351.28

Any dog

For all damages done by the dog (when the dog is caught in the action of worrying, maiming, or killing a domestic animal, or the dog is attacking or attempting to bite a person)

Presumably anyplace

When the party damaged is doing an unlawful act, directly contributing to the injury

This section does not apply to damage done by a dog affected with hydrophobia unless the owner of the dog had reasonable grounds to know that the dog was afflicted with hydrophobia and by reasonable effort might have prevented the injury.

 

Kentucky

 

 

KY ST 258.235(4)

Any dog

Any damage

Presumably anyplace

Not provided

Not provided

 

Louisiana

 

 

LA C.C. Art. 2321

Any dog

Injuries caused by a dog that an owner could have prevented

Presumably anyplace

Provocation

Not provided

 

Maine

 

 

ME ST. T.7 3961

Any dog

Any damage

NOT on the owner’s premises

Not provided

Note that any fault on the part of the person injured may not reduce damages, unless that fault exceeds the owner’s fault

 

Mass.

 

MA ST 140 Sec. 155

Any dog

Do any damage to either the body or property of any person

Presumably anyplace

A person who, at the time such damage was sustained, was committing a trespass or other tort, or was teasing, tormenting or abusing such dog. If a minor, on whose behalf an action under this section is brought, is under seven years of age at the time the damage was done, it shall be presumed that such minor was not committing a trespass or other tort, or teasing, tormenting or abusing such dog, and the burden of proof thereof shall be upon the defendant in such action.

§ 155A. Indemnification of law enforcement officers; damages caused by dogs used in performance of official duties

If an action is brought against a law enforcement officer because of damage caused by a dog which said officer was caring for or maintaining in connection with his official duties, the commonwealth or the political subdivision employing said officer shall indemnify him for expenses or damages incurred in the settlement or defense of such action; provided that in the case of an officer employed by the commonwealth the settlement or defense of such case shall have been made by the attorney general, and that in the case of an officer employed by a city or town such settlement or defense shall have been made by the city solicitor or town counsel or by an attorney legally employed for the purpose by a city or town.

 

 

Michigan

 

 

MI ST 287.351

Any dog

Bites

Public property, or lawfully on private property, including the property of the owner of the dog (unless said person has gained lawful entry upon the premises for the purpose of an unlawful or criminal act.)

Provocation

None other than provocation

 

Minnesota

 

 

MN ST 347.22

A dog

Attacks or injures any person

Any place where the person may lawfully be

Provocation

None other than provocation

Missouri

 

 

MO ST 273.036

 

Any dog

Bite

Public property or lawfully on private property, including the property of the owner or possessor of the dog

 

If it is determined that the injured party had fault in the incident, any damages owed by the owner or possessor of the dog shall be reduced by the same percentage that the damage party’s fault contributed to the incident.

 

Montana

 

 

MT ST 27-1-715

Any dog located within an incorporated city or town

Bite

A public place or lawfully on or in a private place, including the property of the owner of such dog (A person is lawfully upon the private property of such owner within the meaning of this section when he is on such property in the performance of any duty imposed upon him by the laws of this state or by the laws or postal regulations of the United States of America or when he is on such property as an invitee or licensee of the person lawfully in possession of the property).

Provocation

None other than provocation

 

Nebraska

 

 

NE ST 54-601

Any dog

Bite a person

Presumably any place

Not listed

Trespasser excluded

 

New Hampshire

 

 

NH ST 466:19

Any dog

Damage done by a dog

Presumably anyplace

Not listed

Unless the damage was occasioned to a person who was engaged in the commission of a trespass or other tort.

 

New Jersey

 

 

NJ ST 4:19-16

Any dog

Bite

On or in a public place, or lawfully on or in a private place, including the property of the owner of the dog (a person is lawfully upon the private property of such owner when he is on the property in the performance of any duty imposed upon him by the laws of this state or the laws or postal regulations of the United States, or when he is on such property upon the invitation, express or implied, of the owner thereof).

Not listed

Trespasser (not lawfully on property)

 

New York

 

 

NY Ag & Mkts Sec. 121 (10)

Dangerous dog ONLY (e.g., the dog has been previously declared "dangerous")

Injury from the dog

Any place

Not listed

Not listed

 

Ohio

 

 

OH ST 955.28

Any dog

Any injury, death, or loss to person or property that is caused by the dog

Presumably anyplace

Unless the injury, death, or loss was caused to the person or property of an individual who, at the time, was committing or attempting to commit a trespass or other criminal offense on the property of the owner, keeper, or harborer, or was committing or attempting to commit a criminal offense against any person, or was teasing, tormenting, or abusing the dog on the owner's, keeper's, or harborer's property.

None other than provocation

 

Oklahoma

 

 

OK ST T. 4 Sec. 42.1

Any dog

Damages caused by bite or injury

In or on a place where he has a lawful right to be (when he is on such property in the performance of any duty imposed upon him by the laws of this state, or by the laws of the United States, or the postal regulations of the United States, or when reading meters, or making repairs to any public utility or service located on said premises, or when working on said property at the request of the owner or any tenant having a lease upon any portion of said property, or when on such property upon the invitation, either expressed or implied, of the owner or lessee of such property).

Provocation

 

 

Penn.

 

 

PA ST 3 P.S. § 459-502

 

Any dog

Any cost to the victim for medical treatment resulting from an attacking or biting dog must be paid fully by the owner of such dog.

Any place

Without provocation (according to Commonwealth v. Hake, 738 A.2nd 46 (Pa Commw. Ct. 1999).

None other than provocation

 

Rhode Island

 

 

RI ST 4-13-16

Any dog

Assaults, bites, or otherwise injures any person

While traveling the highway or out of the enclosure of the owner or keeper of that dog

Not listed

Not listed

 

South Carolina

 

 

SC ST 47-3-110

Any dog

Bitten or otherwise attacked by a dog

While the person is in a public place or is lawfully in a private place, including the property of the owner of the dog or other person having the dog in his care or keeping,

If a person provokes a dog into attacking him then the owner of the dog is not liable.

None other than provocation

 

Tenn.

 

 

TN ST 44-8-213

Dogs running at large/not under reasonable control

Any damages (but TN limits SL for dog on owner’s property)

While the person injured is in a public place or lawfully on the private property of another

Excludes strict liability while a person was provoking the dog

 

 

- Military or police dog

- While the dog was protecting the owner or innocent person

- While dog was securely confined (i.e., kennel, crate, etc.)

- If a dog causes damage while on its owner’s property, then the claimant has to show owner knew of vicious propensities

 

 

Utah

 

UT ST 18-1-1

Any dog

Injury committed by such dog

Presumably anyplace

Not listed

But neither the state nor any county, city, or town in the state nor any peace officer employed by any of them shall be liable in damages for injury committed by a dog when: (1) The dog has been trained to assist in law enforcement, and (2) The injury occurs while the dog is reasonably and carefully being used in the apprehension, arrest, or location of a suspected offender or in maintaining or controlling the public order.

 

Washington

 

WA ST 16.08.040

Any dog

Bite

In or on a public place or lawfully in or on a private place including the property of the owner of such dog. A person is lawfully upon the private property of such owner within the meaning of RCW 16.08.040 when such person is upon the property of the owner with the express or implied consent of the owner: PROVIDED, That said consent shall not be presumed when the property of the owner is fenced or reasonably posted.

 

Proof of provocation is a complete defense

Trespasser

 

West Virginia

 

 

WV ST 19-20-13

Only if dog is running at large

Any damages inflicted upon the person or property of another

Presumably anyplace

Not listed

Not listed

 

Wisconsin

 

 

WI ST 174.02

Any dog

Full amount of damages caused by the dog injuring or causing injury to a person, domestic animal or property

Presumably anyplace

This section has been held by a WI court to impose strict liability, "subject only to the defense of comparative negligence." See Becker v. State Farm Mut. Auto. Ins. Co. , 141 Wis.2d 804, 808, 416 N.W.2d 906 (Ct. App. 1987).

Law enforcement dogs while the dog is performing law enforcement functions

 

 

 

 

 

 

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