When it comes to dog bites, the owner of the animal is legally responsible for the actions of his or her pets. It is that simple and complex at the same time. The most common injuries sustained in an animal attack are dog bites, which is no surprise, considering there are more than 75 million dogs in the United States. It is up to the pet owner to properly fence, leash, or both, their pet(s) to prevent any injuries to others.
Dog bite laws vary from state to state, from country to county and municipality to municipality. However, many of the locations with dog bite laws have what is referred to as the one bite or first bite rule that may exempt the owner from liability.
In a nutshell, the one bite or first bite rule does not consider the owner to be guilty if the dog bites a person for the first time, as long as the owner was not negligent. However, if the dog has a history of biting or attacking people, the one bite or first bite rule does not apply.
Additionally, if the owner lets his or her dog run loose in public places, they may be held responsible for the actions of their dog if the dog bites someone, whether it is the first bite or not. The one bite rule will not help the dog owner if the plaintiff can prove the owner knew or should have known the nature of the dog.
In some cases, strict liability may apply in dog bite cases. There are exemptions to the rule that include: the victim was a vet and was bitten during an examination, the victim was trespassing or breaking into a premise, the victim provoked the dog, or the victim ignored warnings about the dog and came up too close.