I Am My Dog’s Keeper

June 21, 2024

By: Jordan Sharpe

I Am My Dog’s Keeper's article image

As a dog owner myself, when I am not spoiling Annie with treats or belly rubs, I am spending a lot of time, weather permitting, outside taking her on long walks. We often encounter other dogs of various breeds, sizes, and temperaments. I do my best to always ask the owner if his or her dog is friendly and would like to say hello, knowing that not all dogs share Annie’s gentle and playful disposition. Not to mention the fact that she is only about 12 lbs. I do this, both for Annie’s safety and for the protection of the other dog and its owner because I know, I am solely responsible for my own dog.

Dog Owner’s Liability Act

Under the DOA, any dog owner is held strictly liable for any injuries their dog may cause to another. AT law, this is what is called a strict liability offense. It applies, regardless of whether the dog owner knew or ought to have known of the dog’s propensity for aggressive behavior. Property owners and occupiers are required to take reasonable care to ensure their guests are safe while on their premises. The DOA, in fact, places a more stringent standard of care on owners and occupiers when compared with the threshold under the Occupiers Liability Act, for which you are held liable, only for damages that you “knew or ought to have known” would occur as a result of the negligent act. Here, dog owners are strictly liable for the injuries and damages their dog causes to another regardless of knowledge or prior history. The court does, however, have the ability to reduce the plaintiff’s damages, if they feel that he or she contributed to the loss in some way. This could include, intentionally provoking the dog despite a prior warning or leaving a child unattended without supervision.

Who is the Owner?

It is important to note that ownership of any dog is not limited to who’s name might be on the license, rather, may also include, the person who had physical possession and control over the dog at the time of the attack. This would include, for example, a hired walk walker.

What Should I Do?

If you find yourself in the unfortunate situation where you have suffered injuries as a result of a dog bite or attack, either physical or psychological, do your very best to secure the name and contact information of the dog owner immediately, and specifically determine whether he or she holds either a valid homeowners or tenants policy of insurance. In the majority of cases, the dog owner’s insurer will be required to respond in the event of an attack, regardless of where it occurred throughout the country. You should also determine the dog’s immunization history and seek medical attention as soon as possible and in most cases, contact the police.

Final Thoughts

Having represented several clients who have sustained injuries as a result of a dog attack, I sometimes find myself conflicted. Dogs are wonderful animals and companions, but we must remember, just like humans, sometimes they don’t all get along.

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