Who’s Responsible When Your Dog Bites Someone?

Most dogs are well-behaved and rarely aggressive towards people. However, if you own a dog, there is always the chance your dog could attack someone. As a consequence, you could find yourself in the middle of a police investigation.

Recently, according to The Dallas Morning News, a Dallas, Texas women was attacked by a pack of dogs that easily escaped the owner’s yard. When the women was found by police, she had been bitten over 100 times and later died of her injuries.

The police are investigating and the attack could be considered a crime if the owner failed to secure the dogs which led to the attack. Unfortunately, this is only one tragic example concerning the consequence of a growing number of loose dogs roaming the streets of South Dallas.

Loose Dogs in South Dallas

A local volunteer-based Dallas organization, Dallas DogRRR, believes that although this is a problem everywhere, it seems to be more of a problem in the Dallas/Ft. Worth area. And even more specifically, the South Dallas area. Dallas DogRRR is proactive in nature and actually rescues dogs directly from the streets, pays all of the vet and feeding bills,  and places them with foster families until they can be adopted.

Despite their awesome efforts, the problem continues to increase in intensity, sometimes because people just don’t care and simply abandon their dogs, but sometimes just because our dogs are better escape artists than we give them credit for.

Of course, most of us wouldn’t dream of simply abandoning our beloved furry friends, but it’s definitely a good idea to know what can happen if they do find a way a way to escape your efforts to contain them.

So, what do you do if your dog gets loose and bites someone? First, you should learn about an important misconception.

Texas Dog Bite Liability – The Great “First Bite” Misconception

Here in Texas, many people believe that if an owner has shown that they have taken reasonable precautions; such as keeping an aggressive dog inside, fenced in, on a leash or tied up, you may not be held responsible for the dog’s first bite. This is commonly called a “one bite” law.

The misconception is that as a dog owner if you show that you took reasonable steps to ensure the safety of others from your dog, and your dog bites another person, you may essentially get a “free pass” for this one bite.

The fact of the matter, though, according to Dallas/Ft. Worth-based attorney Geoffrey Dashner, who has represented many Texans in dog bite cases, this is often not the case.

“I see people trying to claim “one bite” all the time, and it just doesn’t hold water,” said Dashner. “The truth is that when you own a dog, you are responsible for that dog, period. You must ensure that an animal you are responsible for doesn’t harm someone else, or you may be held liable.”

It’s even more difficult to avoid liability for any subsequent bites after the first. Simply put, you have to show that you took reasonable caution in regards to your dog’s behavior. Here are some tips to keep in mind to help protect yourself from liability for that first bite.

Tips On Protecting Yourself and Your Dog

  • Keep your dog on a leash when walking around outside. In many areas this isn’t optional, this is the law.
  • Check your fencing. If you keep your dog in a fenced area in the backyard, make sure your dog cannot jump over the fence or knock it down when strangers come around.
  • Review your Homeowner’s Insurance. If your dog does bite someone and that person sues you, your homeowner or renter’s insurance may pay for an attorney to represent you and pay damages if a judgment is made against you in court. Check with your insurer to make sure if you have this coverage, if not, consider getting coverage.
  • Place warning signs around your property. If you know your dog is aggressive towards strangers; you have a duty to warn the public that your dog is potentially dangerous. Place signs around your property warning them.
  • Invest in a good positive training program that will not only teach the dog good behavioral skills but also teach you and your family how to be good pack leaders.

Caring for Your Pet Through Leadership

We all often feel like our dogs are members of our family, and within our family unit, their behavior may make us overconfident that the way they behave in the living room is the way they “always behave.” Take care though, especially in situations that are new or unfamiliar to your dog.

Remember that as comfortable as you are with your best friend, not everyone is as comfortable, and in strange or new situations, meeting new people or animals, your dog needs your leadership to know how to behave.  Have you ever noticed that a good dog trainer spends nearly as much time teaching the family how to behave as the dog? Providing that positive leadership is simply a part of caring for your dog and making sure everyone enjoys his or her company as much as you do.


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