What You Need to Know About Dog Bite Laws
A dog bite can result in serious physical and psychological consequences. The most severe bites could require surgery or amputation. A person is also likely to suffer from the mental trauma associated with animal attacks. Our attorneys represent victims who have been attacked by negligent owners’ animals. If you reside in Illinois, all dog bite laws can be found within the Animal Control Act.
The Responsibility of an Illinois Dog Owner
Under statute 510 ILCS 5/2. 05a, a dangerous dog is defined as “any individual dog anywhere other than upon the property of an owner or custodian of the dog and unmuzzled, unleashed, or unattended by its owner.” As such, it’s a dog owner’s responsibility to ensure their dog remains secured on their property at all times. A later statute, 510ILCS 5/2.11a, says that all dogs on private property are to be enclosed by the means of a fence or structure at least six feet in height to prevent the entry of children.
If an owner takes their dog for a walk on public property or on someone else’s private property, the dog should remain leashed. If a dog escapes from the owner’s property, the owner can be deemed responsible for any damage the dog causes. According to statute 510 ILCS 5/2.18b, a reckless dog owner is someone who allows their dog to leave their property and kill another dog.
Proving Negligence After a Dog Bite
There is a specific statute, 510 ILCS 5/16, in Illinois’ code of laws that covers dog bites and related injuries. The law explains how a victim can prove an animal owner is legally liable for the damage their dog has caused. According to the statute, an injured person must be able to show the following:
- A dog attempted to attack or injures the person
- The individual had a lawful right to be in the place they were at the time of the attack
- The dog was not provoked in any way
Illinois’ dog bite laws also cover injuries resulting from dogs’ behaviors. If, for example, a person is knocked down by a dog on a public sidewalk and sustains an injury, they have the right to seek compensation under the statute.
Understanding Strict Liability
Dog bite cases are typically viewed under one of two legal theories: negligence or strict liability. Illinois is a strict liability state when dealing with dog bites. This means that a dog’s owner cannot argue that they were unaware of their animal’s aggression or injury-causing tendencies. Even if a dog had never acted aggressively, an owner is liable if the animal attacks someone and was unprovoked.
In practice, this means that if you are knocked down by a dog and are injured, the owner is likely to be liable for your injuries even if they did not know the dog would jump.
When a Dog Has Hurt You
There are several steps you should take as soon as possible after you’ve been bitten or otherwise injured by a dog:
- Get the names and phone numbers of the dog’s owner. Even if you don’t think you’ll be asking for any money, you may change your mind the next day, when you discover that jumping out of the way of that lunging dog has given you a swollen ankle. If the owner has liability insurance, get that information as well.
- Get names and contact information of any witnesses. You may need them to back up your version of what happened if you and the dog’s owner later disagree or if you don’t know who owns the dog. Animal control authorities may be able to find the dog from your description and then find its owner.
- Take pictures. If you can, get a picture of the dog, your immediate visible injuries, and anything in the vicinity that might support your version of what happened (such as an open gate or a hole in the fence that the dog came through).
- Get medical attention if you need it. If your injury is serious enough to require medical attention, get it quickly. Keep records of doctor’s office or hospital visits and copies of bills.
- Report the incident to animal control authorities. This is especially important if the dog wasn’t wearing a license tag and you don’t know who owns it. Many cities and some states require that a dog be quarantined after it bites someone, to see if it’s rabid, so authorities may try to pick up the dog for that purpose. You’ll also want to check records at the animal control department to find out if the dog has attacked someone before. That could help you negotiate with the owner (or the insurance adjuster)— or win a case in court if it goes that far.
What You Need To Know About Virginia Dog Bite/Attack Laws
While some states have strict liability laws and hold dog owners at fault for any injury, Virginia approaches it differently. Virginia’s dog bite laws are rooted in its common law doctrines of negligence, state statutes, and local ordinances. The general rule for dog bites in Virginia and whether the owner is liable for the attack or bite is whether or not the dog owner acted negligently—did he or she depart from the usual standard of care from what a reasonable person would have done under similar circumstances? What does this mean? Well, it all depends on the facts of the case; dog bite cases are very fact-specific.
Where the attack happens, matters
If a dog escapes from someone’s property and attacks you, several factors come into play. First and foremost, where did the attack happen? Did it happen on private property or public land? Each County, City, or Town usually have their own ordinance when dealing with leash laws.
Prior bites, matter
Did the dog ever attack or bite a person before? What about another dog? Did the owner have prior knowledge of this? All these issues also play a role in considering whether or not an owner may be liable for their dog attacking another. If an owner of a dog is aware that their dog bit or attacked another person in the past, they are aware that their dog can potentially harm another person and act accordingly. If a dog who has never bit someone before, attacks someone, then the owner might not be liable for this if that attack was not reasonably foreseeable.
Breed propensities, matter
Under Virginia law, any animal owner is responsible for taking note of the “natural inclinations or characteristics” of the breed. If a dog is more prone to aggressive behavior due to its breed makeup and an owner does not take steps to keep the dog from biting, the dog’s breed will be taken into consideration when dealing with dog attacks. However, Virginia law also states that no dog shall be found to be dangerous solely because of its particular breed.
What are a person’s legal rights if they are bitten by a dog?
If you are bitten by a dog owned by someone else, you may be eligible for a settlement from the do’s owner. Ultimately, a pet’s owner is responsible for their pet’s actions. So if that pet bites you and causes an injury, the owner is responsible and may owe you compensation for medical care and pain and suffering.
What does the law say about dog bites?
Alabama law states that a dog’s owner is liable for injuries caused by the dog if the injured person did not provoke the dog, the injured person was not trespassing, or the injured person was on the dog’s owner’s property or had just left the property and was chased off it by the dog.
For dog owners, this means that they would be well served to take steps designed to minimize the risk of a dog bite.
For example, dog owners should:
- Consult with a professional to learn about suitable breeds of dogs for their particular household and lifestyle.
- Use caution when handling a dog around an infant or toddler.
- Never leave infants or young children alone with any dog.
- Obey leash rules.
- Immediately seek consult a veterinarian if the dog develops aggressive behaviors.
- Stay current on vaccinations. (Wisconsin law requires that any dog that bites a person must be quarantined for ten days so it can be observed for signs of rabies. If the dog is vaccinated it may be quarantined on the premises of the owner. Unvaccinated dogs will be quarantined at an isolation facility).