It Wasn’t My Dog’s Fault

Although dog owners are responsible when their dog bites someone, there are defenses to dog bite cases.

Dog Bite Defenses

Trespassing is a narrow defense to a dog bite case.

There are limited defenses to a dog bite case. First, the victim must have the legal right to be where they are when they are bitten. This rarely comes into play since dogs usually bite in a public location when they get out of your property, or they bite someone who is allowed to be there, such as a guest or meter reader. You are likely liable even to a salesman who comes uninvited to your door. If someone truly trespasses on your property and is bitten by your dog, there is no liability.

Provocation is a defense to a dog bite case.
The main defense to a dog bite case is provocation. The word provocation has a very limited meaning under the law of dog bites. Provocation involves intentional antagonism toward the dog. Here are a few examples of provocation:

  • pulling a dog’s tail
  • removing its food bowl
  • kicking a dog
  • stepping on a dog

However, merely petting a dog or even “rough housing” with a dog does not rise to the level of provocation. If your dog bites someone, your natural defensive reaction would be to say they provoked your dog. This may be partially true, but provocation under the law is much more narrow. To learn more about provocation and dog bites, contact us for a free consultation.