Attention dog owners: Did you know that your furry best friend could land you in a civil suit?
If your dog injures someone – whether a person or another dog – you, as the owner of the dog, are held liable. Yes, this means that you are held responsible if your dog bites a small child on your daily stroll.
Here are a few canine liability issues to keep in mind:
Injuring another dog:
- If the dog that attacked is a listed “dangerous dog” (which varies by state), the owner can be held responsible for sheltering a violent animal and be responsible for damages and medical bills. Fatal injuries could require reimbursement the victim’s owner for the original amount paid for the dog.
- Many dog parks will not allow dogs that have bitten or caused harm to a person or another animal previously.
Injuring a person:
- A dog must be kept under reasonable control so it will not be at large. The owner is responsible for its dog if the dog goes onto a private property, freeway, public road, public street or another open public area.
- If an owner does not keep the dog under reasonable control, he/she may be liable for damages suffered by an injured person, regardless of whether the property is public or private.
- Even if the dog had not previously displayed any dangerous propensities, the owner is still liable.
However, there are a few exceptions:
- Dog is in police or military service and in the line of duty.
- Injured person was on private property of owner and intended to commit illegal activity on the property.
- Dog was protecting owner or innocent party from injured person or her/his animal.
- Dog was securely in an enclosure, kennel, or crate.
- Dog was provoked, in some way, by the injured person
While owning a dog can be rewarding and fun, always keep in mind potential liability. In order to avoid any mishaps, it is best to keep your dog on a harness or leash – you never know how two dogs might react to each other!
For more information regarding Tennessee’s dog and pet laws of liability, please refer to T.C.A. §44-8-413; §39-17-1363; §44-8-408; 2007 Tenn. SB143.