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That Beware of Dog Sign…What You Need to Know

Beware of Dog SignToday I want to talk about that Beware of Dog sign and why it may be more important than you might realize.

First, let me preface this post by stating VERY CLEARLY that I am NOT an attorney. The information in this post has been gathered from various sources and may change at any time. If this information is important to you, I highly recommend doing your own research for your specific circumstance and location.

What You Need to Know About That Beware of Dog Sign

Dog bite law varies depending on the jurisdiction where you live and this is what determines the protection (if any) you receive from posting a beware of dog sign.

The general rule of thumb, however, is that IF someone enters your property understanding that doing so may carry a risk of being injured by your dog, they voluntarily took that risk and this limits your liability as a dog owner for any injury caused to that person by your dog.

How do you prove that the individual entering your property knew that there was a risk of being injured by your dog? You have clearly posted signs at all entry points of your home that advertise your dog’s presence – “Beware of Dog”, “Guard Dog on Duty”, etc.

UNLESS…

As I mentioned before, dog bite law varies depending on where you live.

In jurisdictions that have a “dog bite statute” in place, the presence of a beware of dog sign on your property is NOT protection against liability.

Dog Bite Statutes

What’s a “dog bite statute” and what jurisdictions have them?

A “dog bite statute” is a statute that states that IF your dog causes injury to someone – either in a public place or a private place, you ARE liable for that injury EVEN if you did not think that your dog was dangerous or likely to cause injury.

This is referred to as “strict liability statute” because, in order for you to be found liable for the injury caused by your dog, a victim DOES NOT have to prove that you did anything wrong.

For example…

You are walking your dog in the park and your dog has no history of biting someone. A stranger then walks over and engages you in conversation, they reach down to pet your dog, but your dog bites them.

IF you live in a jurisdiction where there is a strict liability statute in place, you will be found liable for your dog biting the stranger EVEN though you didn’t know that your dog was going to bite and they had no history of biting.

It is also worth noting that in some jurisdictions, the injury caused by your dog does not have to be a bite. It may also be another type of injury such as causing someone to fall down the stairs.

So How Do You Know the Law Where You Live?

To know whether a beware of dog sign would do you any good in your jurisdiction, you need to know the law where you live. The tables below are from the NOLO.com website and summarize dog bite statutes in the U.S.

 

U.S. State
Dog Bite Statute

Covers
Bites Only?

Other Notes

Alabama Ala. Code § 3-6-1 no Only applies if injury on owner’s property
Arizona  Ariz. Rev. Stat. §11-1025

 

yes Strict liability
Ariz. Rev. Stat. §11-1020 no Only applies if dog at large
California Cal. Civ. Code   § 3342 yes
Colorado Colo. Rev. Stat. § 13-21-124 yes Injury must be severe
Connecticut Conn. Gen. Stat. § 22-357 no Injured person must prove not committing tort
Delaware 9 Dela. Code § 913 No
Florida Fla. Stat. Ann. § § 767.01 no
Fla. Stat. Ann. § § 767.04 yes Owner not liable (except to children under 6, or if owner was negligent) if displayed sign including words “Bad Dog”
Illinois 510 Ill. Comp. Stat., § 5/16 no Injured person must prove lack of provocation or trespassing
Indiana Ind. Code 15-20-1-3 yes Only applies if injured person was in a location where they were required to be in order to discharge a duty under federal or state law (i.e. delivering the mail), they were acting peaceably, and they did not provoke the dog.
Iowa Iowa Code Ann. § 351.28 no Injured person must prove not doing unlawful act that contributed to the injury
Kentucky Ky. Rev. Stat. § 258.235 no
Louisiana Louisiana Civil Code §  2321 no Applies to injuries “which the owner could have prevented”
Maine Me. Rev. Stat. Ann., tit. 7, § 3961 no Injured person must prove not at fault
Maryland Md. Cts. & Jud. Proc. Code §  3-1901 no Applies when dog “running at large”; otherwise injury creates “rebuttable presumption” that owner knew of dog’s dangerous propensities
Massachusetts Mass. Gen. Laws Ann., ch. 140, § 155 no Injured person must prove not trespassing or committing tort (unless less than 7 years old)
Michigan Mich. Comp. Laws Ann. § 287.351 yes
Minnesota Minn. Stat. Ann. § 347.22 no Owner “primarily liable”
Missouri Mo. Rev. Stat. 273.036 yes
Montana Mont. Code Ann. § 27-1-715 yes Applies only in city or town
Nebraska Neb. Rev. Stat. § 54-601 no Injured person must prove not trespasser. Applies only if dog chases, bites, kills or wounds
New Hampshire N. H. Rev. Stat. Ann. § 466:19 no Injured person must prove not trespassing or committing tort
New Jersey N.J. Stat. Ann. § 4:19-16 yes
Ohio Ohio Rev. Code Ann. § 955.28 no Injured person must prove not trespassing or teasing, tormenting, or abusing dog on owner’s property
Oklahoma Okla. Stat. Ann., tit. 4, § 42.1 no
Pennsylvania 3 Pa. Stat. § 459-502 (b) yes Owner must pay injured person’s medical bills
Rhode Island R.I. Gen. Laws § 4-13-16 no Only applies if dog out of their enclosure. On the second occurrence, double damages and court can order dog killed
South Carolina S.C. Code Ann. § 47-3-110 no Applies only if dog bites or attacks
Utah Utah Code   § 18-1-1 no Does not apply to police dogs
Washington Wash. Rev. Code Ann. § 16.08.040 yes
West Virginia W. Va. Code § 19-20-13 no Only applies if dog at large
Wisconsin Wis. Stat. Ann. § 174.02 no After owner has received notice that the dog has caused injury, double the damages and penalties

Other Dog-Bite Statutes

Some states have dog-bite statutes that don’t impose simple strict liability.

District of Columbia  

D.C. Code Ann. § 8-1812

no If dog injures someone while “at large” the owner’s lack of knowledge of the animal’s dangerousness will not absolve the owner from a finding that he or she was negligent
Georgia Ga. Code Ann. § 51-2-7 no Owner liable if the dog was a “dangerous animal” or off leash or not under control
Hawaii Haw. Rev. Stat. § § 663-9, 663-9.1 no Injured person must prove owner was negligent unless the animal is known to be dangerous
North Carolina N.C. Gen. Stat. Ann. § §  67-4.4, 67-12 no Owner of a “dangerous dog” or an owner who allows “dog over six months old to run at large in the nighttime” is strictly liable
Tennessee Tenn. Code Ann. § 44-8-413 no Not exactly strict liability, but owner may be liable without knowledge of dog’s dangerous propensity

Have a question about dog bite law where you live? Want to know how much protection you would receive from posting a beware of dog sign? Make sure to research local laws as well as state laws and if you need to, talk to an attorney to get a clear picture of where you stand.

As a dog owner, it is CRUCIAL that you are informed and educated!

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Beware of Dog Sign

That Beware of Dog Sign…What You Need to Know