Full Title Name:  Table of Dog Bite Strict Liability Statutes

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Rebecca F. Wisch and Diamond Conley Publish Year:  2017 Place of Publication:  Michigan State University College of Law Primary Citation:  Animal Legal & Historical Center
Summary: Approximately 36 states and D.C. have strict liability laws for dog bites. This table illustrates the primary components of each state's strict liability law such as animal covered, type of injury, place injury occurs, and exceptions under the law. The table does not discuss dangerous dog laws (although you can find a table of these laws under Legal Topics, Comparative Tables in the navigation bar).

This table compares statutory strict liability for injuries by dogs for all 50 states. "Statutory strict liability" means that a state has a law that establishes that a dog owner is responsible for injury to a person (or sometimes that person's property, which often includes domestic animals and/or livestock) whether or not the owner knew the dog had a "vicious propensity." Essentially, the dog owner has to pay for the dog bite victim's injury even if the dog never seemed dangerous or vicious in the past. The term "statutory" is used because, in some states, court cases (which lawyers call the "common law") may establish also strict liability or other another type of liability for the owner. The table only shows those states that have laws that assign liability to dog owners.

While the language of these statutes varies, they all make an owner liable for damage done by his or her dog regardless of evidence of previous viciousness of such dog or the owner's knowledge of such viciousness. This knowledge may also be called "scienter" in the legal world.

As of 2017, the majority of states have adopted some sort of strict liability (36 and D.C.). Currently, only 14 states do not have such a law, including Alaska, Arkansas, Idaho, Kansas, Mississippi, Nevada, New Mexico, New York, North Dakota, South Dakota, Texas, Vermont, Virginia, and Wyoming. Note that these strict liability laws impose civil liability to dog owners for damage done to another person or property. This civil liability comes in the form of money damages owed to the injured person. This is different than a "dangerous dog" law, which is a law that imposes penalties and duties by a local government to a dog owner whose dog meets the definition of "dangerous" or "vicious" under state law. Dangerous dog laws may require that an owner keep the dog on a leash and purchase liability insurance, or they may even order the destruction of the offending dog. While strict liability laws and dangerous dog laws often intersect (a dog who bites another person and causes the owner to pay for the injuries may also lead to the dog being declared "dangerous"), they accomplish different legislative goals. This table does not include laws that relate to strict liability for dog bites done by previously declared dangerous dogs or damage done by "dangerous animals." This table includes laws that impose strict liability for dogs running at large (which includes Arizona, D.C., Georgia, North Carolina, Tennessee, and West Virginia).

A couple of states have what could be termed "modified" strict liability. This means that there is another factor that must be met before strict liability is imposed. This occurs in D.C. (the dog must first be at-large), Georgia (strict liability for dogs "at liberty," or off-leash), North Carolina (dogs running at large in the nighttime), Tennessee (running at large/not under control), and West Virginia (again, running at large).

Listed on the table are columns for type of animal and type of injury. Most states limit strict liability to dogs, but Alabama, Georgia, Hawaii, and Illinois extend liability to other animals. The majority of states apply strict liability for all types of injury or property damage while others limit it to only dog bites (about eight states only cover dog bites). The "places included" column is significant because some states exclude bites that occur on the dog owner's property.

Finally, there are often exceptions to strict liability laws, with chief among those being provocation. Provocation is typically defined as inducing or inciting someone to do something, usually by words. This is obviously not the same for dogs. In this case, it means that the person injured by the dog aggravated, teased, or abused it, which caused it to attack. The exact definition of provocation usually depends on the facts of the case and rulings from previous legal cases.

States may also exclude law enforcement dogs that bite while engaged in their duties. Some states explicitly exclude trespassers in their list of exceptions, though this may be implied by the language of the law. For example, if the statute says it covers injury to a person when he or she is "lawfully" in a place, such language would presumably exclude an unlawful trespasser from a damages award.

Finally, it should be noted that laws are subject to interpretation by appellate courts. The strict liability laws below may be clarified, limited, or even expanded by the common law.

 

State

Citation & Link

Type of Animal/Dog

Type of Damage

Places Included

Exceptions

Alabama

 

Ala. Code 1975 § 3-1-3

Ala. Code 1975 § 3-6-1

Vicious or dangerous animal (3-1-3)

Any dog (3-6-1)

Bite or injury

Vicious dog:

Under 3-1-3, liability if owner/keeper allows dog to go at liberty (roam) or carelessly manages the animal.

Dog bite:

Under 3-6-1, a place where victim has a legal right to be or on owner's property only when defined in 3-6-2.

There is a mitigation of strict liability for injury to persons.

Section 3-6-3 states that the owner of such dog shall be entitled to plead and prove in mitigation of damages that he or she had no knowledge of any circumstances indicating such dog to be or to have been vicious or dangerous or mischievous. If so proved, owner is only liable for actual expenses incurred by the person so bitten or injured as a result of the bite or injury.

Alaska     
Arizona

A. R. S. § 11-1020

A. R. S. § 11-1025

A. R. S. § 11-1027


Dog at large (11-1020)

Any dog

(11-1025)

 

Any injury to person or damage to property (11-1020)

Dog bite

(11-1025)

Dogs at large:

Injury to any person or damage to any property by a dog while at large shall be the full responsibility of the dog owner or person or persons responsible for the dog when such damages were inflicted.
(11-1020)

Dog bite:

On a public place or lawfully in or on a private place, including the property of the owner of the dog (11-1025)

Police/military dogs:

Dog used in military or police work when dog defending itself or assisting the agency:

  • apprehending a suspect
  • investigation of a crime
  • execution of a warrant
  • defense of a peace officer or another person

(11-1025)

Provocation:

Proof of provocation of the attack by the person injured shall be a defense to the action for damages. The issue of provocation shall be determined by whether a reasonable person would expect that the conduct or circumstances would be likely to provoke a dog.

(11-1027)

 

Arkansas     
CaliforniaWest's Ann. Cal. Civ. Code § 3342Any dogBite onlyIn a public place or lawfully in a private place, including the property of the owner of the dog

Police/military dogs if the bite occurred while the dog was defending itself from an annoying, harassing, or provoking act, or assisting an employee of the agency in any of the following:

  • in the apprehension or holding of a suspect where the employee has a reasonable suspicion of the suspect's involvement in criminal activity.
  • in the investigation of a crime or possible crime
  • in the execution of a warrant
  • in the defense of a peace officer or another person
Colorado

C. R. S. A. § 13-21-124

DogBite BUT ONLY if the person suffered serious bodily injury or death from being bitten by a dogWhile lawfully on public or private property

A dog owner shall not be liable:

  • if the person bitten is unlawfully on public or private property
  • if the person bitten is on property of the dog owner and the property is clearly and conspicuously marked with one or more posted signs stating "no trespassing" or "beware of dog"
  • the dog is being used by a peace officer or military personnel in the performance of duties
  • the person knowingly provoked the dog
  • the person is a veterinary health care worker, dog groomer, humane agency staff person, professional dog handler, trainer, or dog show judge acting in the performance duties
  • the dog is working as a hunting dog, herding dog, farm or ranch dog, or predator control dog on the property of or under the control of the dog's owner
Connecticut

C. G. S. A. § 22-357

Any dog

Any damage to either the body or property of any person

Note that here, “property” includes, but is not limited to, a companion animal, as defined in section 22–351a, and “the amount of such damage”, with respect to a companion animal, includes expenses of veterinary care, the fair monetary value of the companion animal and burial expenses for the companion animal.

Presumably any place

Exceptions if person damaged by dog was:

  • committing a trespass or other tort
  • teasing, tormenting or abusing such dog

There is a presumption that a minor victim under 7 years old was not committing a trespass or other tort, or teasing, tormenting or abusing such dog. The burden of proof is on the defendant dog owner/caretaker to show that.


Delaware

16 Del.C. § 3053F

A dogAny injury, death or loss to person or propertyPresumably any place

at the time of injury, death, or loss:

  • was committing or attempting to commit a trespass or other criminal offense on the property of the owner
  • was committing or attempting to commit a criminal offense against any person
  • was teasing, tormenting, or abusing the dog
D.C.DC ST 8-1812



A dog running at largeIf a dog injures a person while at large, lack of knowledge of the dog's vicious propensity standing alone shall not absolve the owner from a finding of negligence.  
Florida

West's F. S. A. § 767.04

Any dogBite

Includes when a person is:

  • in a public place, or lawfully
  • in a private place, including the property of the owner of the dog

A person is lawfully upon private property of such owner within the meaning of this act when the person is on such property in the performance of any duty imposed upon him or her by the laws of this state or by the laws or postal regulations of the United States, or when the person is on such property upon invitation, expressed or implied, of the owner

Any negligence on the part of the person bitten that is a proximate cause of the biting incident reduces the liability of the owner of the dog by the percentage that the bitten person's negligence contributed to the biting incident.

The owner is not liable (except when victim is under the age of 6) if at the time of any such injury the owner had displayed in a prominent place on his or her premises a sign easily readable including the words "Bad Dog."

Georgia

Ga. Code Ann., § 51-2-7

Vicious or dangerous animal that is also at large

 

Injury to another person

Carelessly allows the animal to go at liberty (or violates an ordinance or law requiring restraint - to "be at heel" according under this law)

Provocation: "a person who does not provoke the injury by his own act."
Hawaii

H R S § 663-9, § 663-9.1

Any animal


Personal or property damage to any personAny place

Trespass:

Any owner or harborer of an animal shall not be liable for any civil damages resulting from actions of the animal occurring in or upon the premises of the owner or harborer where the person suffering either personal or property damage as a proximate result of the actions of the animal is found by the trier of fact intentionally or knowingly to have entered or remained in or upon such premises unlawfully.

Provocation:

Any owner or harborer of an animal shall not be liable for any civil damages resulting from actions of the animal where the trier of fact finds that:

(1) The animal caused such damage as a proximate result of being teased, tormented, or otherwise abused without the negligence, direction, or involvement of the owner or harborer; or

(2) The use of the animal to cause damage to person or property was justified under chapter 703 (related to general principles of justification under the law)

Idaho     
Illinois510 ILCS 5/16


Dog or any animalAttacks, attempts to attack, or injures any personPeaceably conducting himself or herself in any place where he or she may lawfully be

Provocation (and, by implication, trespass since only applies when person is lawfully in a place)
Indiana

IC 15-20-1-3


Any dogBite

A person:

(1) who is acting peaceably; and

(2) who is in a location where the person may be required to be in order to discharge a duty imposed upon the person by:

  • the laws of Indiana;
  • the laws of the United States; or
  • the postal regulations of the United States
Provocation
Iowa

I. C. A. § 351.28

Any dogAll damages done by the dog when the dog is caught in the action of worrying, maiming, or killing a domestic animal, or the dog is attacking or attempting to bite a person


Presumably any place

Liable except when the party damaged is doing an unlawful act

Also has exception for dogs affected with hydrophobia unless owner had reasonable grounds to know of the infection

Kansas     
KentuckyKRS § 258.235(4)


Any dogAny owner whose dog is found to have caused damage to a person, livestock, or other property shall be responsible for that damagePresumably any placeNot provided in law
LouisianaLA C.C. Art. 2321


Dog for modified strict liability (other animals are negligence-based)

The owner of a dog is strictly liable for damages for injuries to persons or property caused by the dog and which the owner could have prevented


Presumably any placeProvocation
Maine7 M. R. S. A. § 3961

DogInjures a personWhen not on the owner's or keeper's premises at the time of the injury

Any fault on the part of the person injured may not reduce the damages recovered for physical injury to that person unless the court determines that the fault of the person injured exceeded the fault of the dog's keeper or owner
MarylandMD Code, Courts and Judicial Proceedings, § 3-1901 Dog

Modified strict liability:

"In an action against an owner of a dog for damages for personal injury or death caused by the dog, evidence that the dog caused the personal injury or death creates a rebuttable presumption that the owner knew or should have known that the dog had vicious or dangerous propensities. '

 Presumably any place

Defenses apply only if the dog is running at large:

  1. Committing or attempting to commit a trespass or other criminal offense on the property of the owner;
  2. Committing or attempting to commit a criminal offense against any person; or
  3. Teasing, tormenting, abusing, or provoking the dog.
MassachusettsM.G.L.A. 140 § 155

Any dogDamage to either the body or property of any person

Presumably any place

At the time such damage was sustained, person was:

  • committing a trespass or other tort
  • teasing, tormenting or abusing such dog

If injured person was a minor under 7 at time of damage, it shall be presumed that such minor was not committing a trespass or other tort, or teasing, tormenting or abusing such dog; burden of proof shall be upon the defendant in such action.

MichiganMCL 287.351DogBiteWhile the person is on public property, or lawfully on private property, including the property of the owner of the dog, the owner of the dog

Provocation
MinnesotaMSA 347.22

Dog

Attacks or injures any person who is acting peaceably

Owner of the dog is liable in damages to the person so attacked or injured to the full amount of the injury sustained

Any place where the person may lawfully be,

Provocation
Mississippi     
MissouriV.A.M.S 273.036

Any dog
  • Bite to person, or
  • Damage to property or livestock
  • Any person who is held liable under the provisions of subsection 1 shall pay a fine not exceeding $1000
While such person is on public property, or lawfully on private property, including the property of the owner or possessor of the dog

Provocation

Also, if it is determined that the damaged party had fault in the incident, any damages owed by the owner or possessor of the biting dog shall be reduced by the same percentage that the damaged party's fault contributed to the incident.

MontanaMCA 27-1-715

Any dogBite to personA public place or lawfully on or in a private place, including the property of the owner of the dog, located within an incorporated city or town


Provocation
NebraskaNeb. Rev. St § 54-601Any dog or dogs

Any and all damages to:

  • any person, other than a trespasser, by reason of having been bitten by any such dog or dogs;
  • any person, firm, or corporation by reason of such dog or dogs killing, wounding, injuring, worrying, or chasing any person or persons or any sheep or other domestic animals belonging to such person, firm, or corporation.
Presumably any place where person has legal right to be

Trespasser

Also, governmental agency or its employees using a dog in military or police work under the details listed in the statute.

Nevada     
New HampshireN.H. Rev. Stat. § 466:19

Any dogDamage to person or property, including sheep, lambs, fowl, or other domestic creatures

Presumably any placeA person who was engaged in the commission of a trespass or other tort
New JerseyN. J. S. A. 4:19-16

Any dogBite to personWhile such person is on or in a public place, or lawfully on or in a private place, including the property of the owner of the dog


Not provided, but trespass is implied by the law (i.e., not lawfully in a place)
New Mexico     
New York






 

North CarolinaN.C.G.S.A. § 67-12Dogs over 6 months old running at large in the night when not accompanied by owners/other person

Liable in damages to any person injured or suffering loss to his property or chattels

Presumably any placeNot provided in law
North Dakota     
OhioRC § 955.28

Dog

Liable in damages for any injury, death, or loss to person or property that is caused by the dog

Also includes individual who, at the time of the injury, was on the property of the owner solely for the purpose of engaging in door-to-door sales or other solicitations regardless of whether the individual was in compliance with any requirement to obtain a permit or license

Presumably any place

Individual who, at the time, was committing or attempting to commit:

  • criminal trespass;
  • another criminal offense other than a minor misdemeanor on the property of the owner, keeper, or harborer,
  • a criminal offense other than a minor misdemeanor against any person;
  • or was teasing, tormenting, or abusing the dog on the owner's, keeper's, or harborer's property.
Oklahoma4 Okl.St.Ann. § 42.1

Any dogBites or injures any personWhile such person is in or on a place where he has a lawful right to be.Provocation
OregonO. R. S. § 31.360 Dog Injury caused by a dog Presumably any placeThis section does not prevent the owner of a dog that caused an injury from asserting that the dog was provoked, or from asserting any other defense that may be available to the owner.
Pennsylvania3 P.S. § 459-502

Any dogAny cost to the victim for medical treatment resulting from an attacking or biting dog must be paid fully by the owner or keeper of the dog.Presumably any placeNot provided in law
Rhode IslandGen. Laws, 1956, § 4-13-16

Any dogKills, wounds, worries, or assists in killing, wounding or worrying, any OWNED sheep, lamb, cattle, horse, hog, swine, fowl, or other domestic animal

Assaults, bites, or otherwise injures any person while traveling the highway or out of the enclosure of the owner or keeper of that dog
According to sources, "the clause 'while traveling on the highway or out of the enclosure of the owner or keeper of such dog' modifies the word 'person' and not the word 'dog.' " Wilbur v. Gross, 55 R.I. 473, 478, 182 A. 597, 599 (1936). Thus, the law applies when the dog is outside the owner-provided enclosure.Not provided in law
South CarolinaCode 1976 § 47-3-110

DogBitten by dog or otherwise attackedIn a public place or is lawfully in a private place, including the property of the dog owner or person having the dog in the person's care or keeping
  • the person who was attacked provoked or harassed the dog and that provocation was the proximate cause of the attack; or
  • the dog was working in a law enforcement capacity with a governmental agency and in the performance of the dog's official duties and meets other requirements.
South Dakota     
TennesseeT. C. A. §44-8-413

ONLY dogs running at large/not under reasonable control of the owner

Any damages suffered by a person who is injured by the dogWhile in a public place or lawfully in or on the private property of another (negligence applies if on the dog owner/keeper's property)


  1. The dog is a police or military dog, the injury occurred during the course of the dog's official duties and the person injured was a party to, a participant in or suspected of being a party to or participant in the act or conduct that prompted the police or military to utilize the services of the dog;
  2. The injured person was trespassing upon the private, nonresidential property of the dog's owner;
  3. The injury occurred while the dog was protecting the dog's owner or other innocent party from attack by the injured person or a dog owned by the injured person;
  4. The injury occurred while the dog was securely confined in a kennel, crate or other enclosure; or
  5. The injury occurred as a result of the injured person enticing, disturbing, alarming, harassing, or otherwise provoking the dog.
Texas     
UtahU.C.A. 1953 § 18-1-1


DogAny injuryPresumably any place

Neither the state nor any county, city, or town in the state nor any peace officer employed by any of them shall be liable in damages for injury committed by a dog, if:

(a) the dog has been trained to assist in law enforcement; and

(b) the injury occurs while the dog is reasonably and carefully being used in the apprehension, arrest, or location of a suspected offender or in maintaining or controlling the public order.

Vermont     
Virginia     
WashingtonWest's RCWA 16.08.040

Any dogBiteWhile in or on a public place or lawfully in or on a private place including the property of the owner of such dogThis section does not apply to the lawful application of a police dog, as defined in RCW 4.24.410
West VirginiaW. Va. Code, § 19-20-13


ONLY dogs running at largeAny damage to person or property of another

Presumably any place but owner's property

Not provided in law
WisconsinW. S. A. 174.02

Any dogAny injury to a person, domestic animal or propertyPresumably any place
The owner of a dog that is used by a law enforcement agency is not liable for damages caused by the dog to a crime suspect while the dog is performing law enforcement functions.
Wyoming     
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