A Huge Fur Friend Problem: Dog Bite Liability and How to Prevent It

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Dogs make amazing pets. They’re loyal and provide comfort to owners. Dogs can also help owners become more sociable, have a better mood, and reduce stress.

Although dogs are usually friendly, they may harm others. No matter how calm their nature can be, they may bite someone when they feel threatened or when they want to protect themselves, their puppies, their food, or even their owners. It’s also important to note that dog bites aren’t rare. Every day, around 1,000 people in the U.S. need treatment for a serious dog bite injury.

As a dog owner, you need to be aware of your liability if and when your dog bites someone.

Dog Bite Liability

Dog bite liability can be categorized into three: strict liability, the one-bite rule, and negligence.

Strict Liability

Strict liability is an umbrella concept that involves any form of damage caused by a dog. As the owner, you are automatically liable for any harm or injury that your dog caused another person, regardless of what steps you made to prevent it.

For example, let’s say that your dog is in your backyard with a low fence, eating something. It may perceive a passer-by as a threat. So the dog jumps over the fence and bites the passers-by. Even if your backyard is fenced, which means you did what you can to prevent your dog from going at large, you are still legally responsible for the damage it caused.

One-bite Rule

As its name suggests, the one-bite rule posits that a dog gets one “free” bite at someone. You are not liable for the first bite that your dog inflicts on someone. But after that, it’s presumed that you are aware of the incident and aware of the “vicious propensity” of your dog. So when they bite the same person for the second time, you become liable for that injury.

Not every state has the one-bite rule and implements strict liability instead. Meanwhile, the one-bite rule in states that do have it may differ. So it’s important that you check what is implemented in your area.


Negligence indicates that the owner is legally responsible for any injury inflicted by their dog as a result of their carelessness. One common example is when your dog attacks someone in public because you didn’t put a leash on it.


Preventing Liability

If your dog attacks and bites someone, you may be contacted by a personal injury attorney who represents the victim. And this can easily become an inconvenient and expensive scenario. As such, you need to do what you can to prevent any dog bite incidence.

Spay or Neuter Your Pet

Spaying or neutering your dog has many benefits. One of them is improving its behavior. Female dogs usually become irritable and potentially aggressive when they’re in heat. They become very protective of themselves. Spaying female dogs can help in controlling this type of behavior and make them calmer. Meanwhile, male dogs can be aggressive due to surges in testosterone levels. Neutering them can prevent this aggression.

Keep Your Dog Socialized

Some dogs may become very guarded because they’re not used to socializing. So one way to prevent your dog from biting someone out of the blue is by keeping it socialized. Walk your dog regularly so that it can be accustomed to being around other people and animals. Going to a public dog park can also help your dog be more sociable and easily mingle with others.

Exercise Your Dog

If your dog is becoming a little aggressive, it may have pent-up energy that it doesn’t know how to expend. You can address this issue by exercising your dog. Walk your pet during the morning. If you have a backyard, let your dog run around and use up its energy through play. Your dog can also exercise indoors. For example, you can set up an obstacle course for them. Or let them run up and down the stairs.

Consult a Professional

You may observe that your dog is becoming more aggressive than usual. If you don’t know the reason and don’t know the cause of this aggression, you should consider consulting a professional. Go to your local veterinarian, an animal behaviorist, or an animal trainer. They can help you check what’s wrong and even change the problematic behavior of your pet.

Having a dog has many benefits, but it also comes with legal responsibilities. You need to understand them and implement precautionary measures to keep your dog and yourself out of legal trouble.


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