What if Your Dog is a Biter?

We’ve all heard the phrase: “every dog gets one bite.” What does it mean? Well, after that first bite, you know that you’re dog may have a propensity to bite – so you can’t claim you didn’t know. In some states, you can be held strictly liable for any injuries your dog causes, whether you knew he was a biter, or not. In others, the ante is upped if you know your dog is a biter, and he bites again!

Under general legal rules, a person can be found to be guilty of negligence if they don’t act with due care, or if they act in a way that shows a disregard for the impact it has on others. When it comes to pet owners, you act without due care if you know your dog is a biter and haven’t taken appropriate steps to warn or safeguard others.

In every state, if the owner/handler knows his dog’s propensity to bite people, the owner/handler is always liable.

There are a couple of things the law looks at to determine if YOU know if your dog has “vicious propensities:”


  • Size or breed has a propensity for this.
  • You train or keep the animal for protection or attack.
  • Complaints have been previously been made or brought to the owner’s attention.
  • Your animal has been known to fight with other animals (even if not other people.)
  • You muzzle your dog even on routine walks.
  • You’ve given verbal warnings to others (including strangers) that your dog may be aggressive etc.
  • You’ve posted “beware of dog” or warning signs.

But – in nearly every state, if an owner/handler’s negligence precipitated the incident, the owner/handler is liable.

To learn more, check out Real Life Legal’s: Planning for Pets: Trusts, Leash Laws and More, by Joanne Dekker, Esq.

Susan G. Parker, Esq.

Real Life Legal™...
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