An owner’s responsibility for dog bites

A dog may be a man’s best friend, but he is not always everyone’s best friend. Even the cutest and friendliest dog can become aggressive in certain situations.

If a dog harms someone while on the owner’s personal property, the owner is liable for the injuries.

Reasons for, and signs of, dog aggression

According to the American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals, there are many reasons why a normally-calm dog may show aggressive behavior, especially when other people are on the dog’s property. When others come into the dog’s territory, the animal may become territorial, possessive of toys, protective of family members or fearful of strangers.

Some initial signs that a dog is experiencing aggression include:

  • Guttural bark or growl
  • Still and tense stance
  • Snarl
  • Lunge forward with no contact

If the factor causing the behavior dissipates, these aggressive actions may go away. However, if the dog continues to feel provoked or in danger, this behavior may escalate to physical contact, which may include a nip at the skin or a light-pressured bite or something more serious like a deep bite.

Responsibilities of the owner

If the dog injures the victim, FindLaw discusses that the property owner is liable, no matter what caused the aggressive behavior in the first place. If the injury occurred due to something other than the bite, the owner generally faces negligence charges. However, if the owner knew the dog was potentially dangerous or vicious, he or she could face more serious charges if there was no effort, such as securing the dog, to prevent an attack.

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