Is a dog owner always at fault when their dog attacks?

April 23, 2013

Dog attack

Is a dog owner always at fault when their dog attacks? Especially someone who trespasses on their property?

As it turns out, there are situations in which a dog owner may not legally be responsible, should their family dog attack and injure another person. These include: *The person provoked the injury. Did the victim come across as loud or threatening, or act as though they would harm either the dog or the dog owner? If the victim taunted and teased the dog, or physically threatened the dog, the owner may not be held responsible. *Was the victim trespassing?

A dog’s natural instinct is to defend itself and it’s family. Most dogs are trained to be somewhat threatening when someone steps onto its turf. There are dog bite statutes that argue anyone who isn’t invited onto your property can’t sue if they’re bitten by your dog.

Some cases that have won using this defense are Kenny v. Barna (Nebraska, 1983), Alvin v. Simpson (Michigan, 1992), and Jones v. Manhart (Arizona, 1978).

* Was the victim careless to the point their carelessness contributed to the injury? This includes knowing they could be dealing with a dog who may attack and came onto the property regardless.

*Was the injured person breaking the law in any way? Many dogs will attack should someone approach their master in a threatening manner or use a loud voice.

According to SC Code of Laws, Title 47-3-110, the dog owner is responsible for damages done by the dog, providing the person attacked was on the property through either express or implied invitation. This protects mail carriers and police, as it is considered part of their job to sometimes visit the home of a dog owner. Especially mail carriers, who come and go several times a week.

It’s a different situation when someone comes onto private property without an invitation. Dog owners can protect themselves and their dogs by placing beware of dog signs on their property. This will caution anyone wanting to come onto the property that a dog defending its home is present. Anyone who disregards a sign should fall under the carelessness category.

It will be interesting to follow the most recent case of a Spartanburg woman who was bitten by her neighbor’s dog on April 23. The attack occurred while on the dog owner’s private property, to which she most likely hadn’t received an invitation. The incident is horrible, but should the victim take partial responsibility for the attack?

It was reported by FOX Carolina that the dog owner will be charged, but is the owner REALLY responsible in this particular case? Your comments are welcome.


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