Dog Bite Laws by State

We’ve all heard stories about dogs biting or injuring people. When that happens, the victims look to the law to hold the owner accountable and pay for their injuries. In many states, the owner can be held strictly liable for any dog bites that take place. Other states allow the dog "one free bite." This means if the dog hasn’t displayed dangerous or violent tendencies in the past, the owner may not be held liable unless he or she had that specific, prior knowledge the dog may bite or attack someone. There are other ways to prove owner liability in these states without a strict liability statute, but these lawsuits can become complicated. There are also a number of cities with leash laws in place to help protect citizens from injuries related to a canine. If the owner isn’t following the leash law or allowing the dog to run "at large," they can be held liable for injuries.

Below you will find a list of dog bite laws in all 50 states and the District of Columbia, including state statutes, whether a state holds owners strictly liable for dog bite injuries, and any additional provisions. Remember, state dog bite laws are a combination of local and state laws and are subject to change. It is a good idea to speak with a lawyer who specializes in animal bite laws in your area before initiating a lawsuit.

State

Statute

Owner Strictly Liable?

Additional Provision

Alabama

Ala. Code § 3-6-1

Yes, if happens on owner’s property.

Provocation exception

Alaska

None

N/A

Owner will be held liable under normal negligence laws or if the owner knew of dog’s dangerous propensities.

Arizona

Ariz. Rev. Stat. §§ 11-1020, 11-1025, 11-1026

Yes, when person is either in public or lawfully on private property.

Provocation is a defense

Arkansas

None

N/A

Owner will be held liable under normal negligence laws or if the owner knew of dog’s dangerous propensities.

California

Cal. Civ. Code § 3342

Yes, when if bite occurs on public property or victim lawfully on private property.

No liability of victim trespassing/committing a crime.

Colorado

Colo. Rev. Stat. § 13-21-124

Strict liability only if the victim suffers serious bodily injury. Otherwise, "One Bite" rule or proof of owner’s knowledge of dog’s "dangerous propensity."

Exceptions to owner liability include provoking the dog, person is trespassing, there is a "no trespass" or "beware of dog sign," and more.

Connecticut

Conn. Gen. Stat. § 22-357

Strict liability unless person was trespassing, committing a tort, or abusing the dog.

If victim is under the age of 7-years-old, there is a presumption against trespass/tort.

Delaware

Del. Code Ann. § 1711

Strict liability unless person was trespassing, committing a tort, or abusing the dog.

N/A

District of Columbia

D.C. Code Ann. § 8-1808

Owner strictly liable if dog is "at large," meaning off leash in a public space or not under the owner’s control.

Contributory negligence applies to victim’s actions and can bar any recovery.

Florida

Fla. Stat. Ann. §§767.01, 767.04

Strict liability unless person is trespassing or committing a crime or tort on private property of owner or there is a visible "Bad Dog" sign on display.

Comparative fault of victim can reduce damages by the percentage the victim is found liable.

Georgia

Ga. Code Ann. § 51-2-7

Owner liable to dog is considered "dangerous animal" or off leash or not under control.

N/A

Hawaii

Haw. Rev. Stat. Ann. § 663-9

Owner liable for damages when negligent unless meets an exception.

Exceptions include victim provocation or abuse of dog or victim was trespassing.

Idaho

N/A

"One Bite Rule"

Owner may be liable to knew of dog’s dangerous propensities.

Illinois

510 I.L.C.S. 5/16 § 16

Strict liability

Exception, victim was trespassing or provoked the dog.

Indiana

Ind. Code 15-20-1-3

Strict liability if victim if was in a location where they were required to be in order to discharge a duty under federal or state law such as a mail carrier.

In all other circumstances, owner held liable if they were negligent or had knowledge of the dog’s dangerous propensities.

Iowa

Iowa Code Ann. § 351.28

Dog owner liable if the dog is "caught in the act of worrying, maiming, or killing a domestic animal," or the dog is attacking or trying to bite a person.

Dog owner may not be not liable if the dog attacked because it had rabies unless the dog's owner knew the dog had rabies but failed to use "reasonable effort" to prevent the dog from harming others.

Kansas

N/A

Dog owner may be liable if they had knowledge of the dog’s vicious propensities, or if they acted negligently.

N/A

Kentucky

Ky. Rev. Stat. § 258.235

Dog owner strictly liable for any damage to a person, livestock, or other property.

Any dog that is declared to be dangerous by a Kentucky court must be kept in a location that is secure from other people. See Kentucky Dog Bite Laws.

Louisiana

La. C.C. Art. § 2321

Strictly liability for damages to persons or property caused by the dog and which the owner could have prevented and which did not result from the injured person's provocation of the dog.

Victim may have to prove owner could have prevented the incident.

Maine

Me. Rev. Stat. Ann. § 3961

Owner strictly liable when dog bite occurs off the owner’s premises or property.

Injured person may have to show they were not at fault.

Maryland

Code of Maryland section 3-1901

Dog owner is strictly liable for any injury, death, or loss to person or property that is caused by the dog, when the dog is running at large (not on owner’s property).

Owner may not be liable if victim was trespassing or attempting to trespass on the owner’s property or committing or attempting to commit another crime; or provoking, abusing, teasing, or tormenting the dog.

Massachusetts

Mass. Gen. Laws Ann. 140 § 155

Dog owner will be held strictly liable for damages caused by their dog, unless victim was trespassing, teasing, or tormenting the animal.

If the victim is under the age of seven years old, the presumption is that there was no trespass or provocation.

Michigan

Mich. Comp. Laws Ann. § 287.351

Dog owner may be liable for all damages resulting from a dog bite when the victim is either on public property, or lawfully on private property.

Strict liability applies as long as victim did not provoke the dog

Minnesota

Minn. Stat. Ann. § 347.22

Dog owner held strictly liable if do "attacks or injures any person who is acting peaceably in any place where the person may lawfully be."

Exceptions to liability: victim not acting peaceably or unlawfully in place where bite takes place.

Mississippi

N/A

"One-Bite" Rule. Dog owner is only liable if they have knowledge of their dog’s vicious propensities.

N/A

Missouri

Mo. Rev. Stat. § 273.036

Dog owner liable if the injured person was on public property or was lawfully on private property, and the injured person did not provoke the dog to bite.

Victim’s damages may be reduced by the percentage that they were at fault. Owner who is held liable for a dog bite must pay a fine of $1,000.00.

Montana

Mont. Code Ann. § 27-1-715

Dog owner strictly liable for damages caused by their dog, if the incident occurred in an incorporated town or city.

N/A

Nebraska

Neb. Rev. Stat. § 54-601

Strict liability for dog owners unless exceptions apply.

Special exception: owner not liable if the injury happens through the dog’s playfulness or mischievousness or the victim is a trespasser.

Nevada

N/A

Dog owner liability if victim can prove that the dog owner's negligence led to the dog bite injury, the plaintiff may recover damages for the dog bite injury.

N/A

New Hampshire

N.H. Rev. Stat. Ann. § 466:19

Dog owner held strictly liable for all physical damages caused by their dog, and for any mischievous acts which causes injury.

N/A

New Jersey

N.J. Stat. Ann. § 4:19-16

Dog owner held strictly liable when victim is lawfully on private property or on public property when the dog bite occurs.

N/A

New Mexico

N/A

Dog owner may be held strictly liable if they had prior knowledge of the dog's vicious propensities, or liable if they were negligent.

N/A

New York

N.Y. Agriculture & Markets Law, § 123(10)

Owner of a “dangerous dog" is liable if the dog causes injuries to another person, to livestock, or to another person's companion animal, like a disability service dog

If victim claims damages that are not medical, must prove the injured person must usually prove that the dog's owner was negligent

North Carolina

N.C. Gen. Stat. Ann. § 67-12, 67-4.4, 67-4.1

Owner strictly liable if they intentionally, knowingly, and willfully let their dog “run at large” at the time of the bite. Otherwise, victim may sue under a negligence claim.

Strict liability for dangerous dogs," defined as a dog that:

  • has killed or severely injured a person without being provoked
  • is owned, harbored, or trained for the purposes of dog fighting, or
  • has been determined to be a "potentially dangerous dog" by the local animal control board.

 

North Dakota

N/A

Dog owner can be liable for damages, if the victim can prove that the dog owner was negligent and negligence caused the injury.

N/A

Ohio

Ohio Rev. Code. Ann. § 955.28

Dog owner strictly liable if he dog's behavior caused the injury, the injured person was not committing (or trying to commit) a crime, the injured person was not trespassing, and the injured person did not tease, torment, or abuse the dog in order to provoke it.

N/A

Oklahoma

Okla. Stat. Ann. § 4-42.1

Dog owner strictly liable for dog bites if the injured person did not provoke the dog and the injured person was in a place he or she had a lawful right to be.

N/A

Oregon

N/A

Dog owner will be liable for victim’s bite injuries if they knew (or had reason to know) of their dog’s dangerous propensities.

N/A

Pennsylvania

Pa. Consol. Stat. § 502 A

To establish a strict liability dog bite claim for a severe injury, the injured person must show that the dog caused a "severe injury," and the dog acted without provocation. Otherwise, victim may attempt a "one bite" claim and show the dog caused an injury the owner knew that the dog had a history of causing injuries or of acting aggressively, and the injured person was not trespassing or provoking the dog when attacked.

PA law describes a "severe injury" as "any physical injury that results in broken bones or disfiguring lacerations requiring multiple sutures or cosmetic surgery."

Rhode Island

R.I. Gen. Laws § 4-13-16

Dog owner will be held liable for all damages unless the dog was confined.

If this is the second time a dog owner is held liable for dog bite injuries, they will be fined.

South Carolina

S.C. Code Ann. § 47-3-110

Dog owner will be liable for all damages if victim was on public property or lawfully on private property.

N/A

South Dakota

N/A

Dog owner will be liable if the victim can prove that the owner knew, or should have known, of the dog's dangerous propensities, or if the owner was negligent.

N/A

Tennessee

Tenn. Code Ann. § 44-8-413

Dog owner is liable for all damages, regardless of prior knowledge of dog's vicious propensities.

Dog owner may not be held liable if victim was a trespasser.

Texas

V.T.C.A., Health & Safety Code § 822.005

Dog owner will be liable if the victim can prove that the owner had knowledge of the dog’s dangerous propensities, was negligent, a leash law was violated, or the owner caused the injury

N/A

Utah

Utah Code Ann. § 18-1-1

Dog owner strictly liable

No state nor any county, city, or town, or peace officer will be held liable for injuries caused by law enforcement animals.

Vermont

N/A

Dog owner may be held liable if victim can prove owner had prior knowledge of dog’s dangerous propensities.

N/A

Virginia

N/A

"One bite" rule; a dog owner may be liable if the owner knew or should have known the dog might act aggressively.

N/A

Washington

Wash. Rev. Code § 16-08-040

Owner strictly liable if person was lawfully on private property or public property when the bite occurs.

Law enforcement animals are not subject to strict liability laws.

West Virginia

W. Va. Code § 19-20-13

Owner held strictly liable if the dog is "running at large."

N/A

Wisconsin

Wis. Stat. § 174.02(1)(a) – First Bite Wis. Stat. § 174.02(1)(b) – Second Bite

Dog owner liable for first bite if not prior knowledge of dog’s dangerous propensities. Must also pay penalty of not less than $50 or more than $500 if the dog injures or causes injury to a person, domestic animal, property, deer, game birds or the nests or eggs of game birds.

Second bite: Dog owner is strictly liable for two times the full amount of damages caused by the dog injuring or causing injury to a person, domestic animal or property.

Wyoming

N/A

Dog owner will be liable if the victim can prove negligence or knowledge of the dog’s dangerous propensities.

N/A

Note: State laws are always subject to change, usually through the enactment of new legislation but also through court decisions and other means. Contact an attorney or conduct your own legal research to verify the state law(s) you are researching.

Dog Bite Free Claim Review

Dog bite laws vary by state and often are confusing combinations of the "one bite" rule and county ordinances, state law, and case law. Trying to decipher when a person is liable for their dog’s actions can be hard to understand. But you don’t have to do it alone. Speak with a local personal injury attorney today and get a free claim review at no obligation to you.

Next Steps

Contact a qualified personal injury attorney to make sure your rights are protected.

Help Me Find a Do-It-Yourself Solution