BAD DOG WARNINGS - A DOG OWNER’S GUIDE

In a heartbreaking story, a deadly dog mauled and killed a 7-year-old, leaving her 56-year-old great-grandmother seriously injured. This is not an isolated case. DogsBite.org is brimming with stories of victims involved in severe and fatal dog attacks. 

According to the Insurance Information Institute, about 4.5 million people are bitten by dogs each year in America, one every 36 seconds. Each state follows its regulations, but dog owners have a legal responsibility to oversee their pets and prevent them from hurting someone. If they fail, they must compensate the victim for medical expenses, time lost from work, and other costs. The average dog bite liability claim lay around $49,025 in 2021.These increasing numbers highlight the need for creating a safety net before a pet dog bites someone. 

Source Link: III.org

Can dog owners be fined for dog bites? 

Yes, although dog bite laws differ between states and individual counties. Dogs can bring expensive liability claims against their owners. Dog owners are liable for injuries their pets cause in at least 29 states across the U.S., barring cases where the dog was provoked. Dog owners can also face citations and warnings for leash law violations. It is best to consult your local animal control department or look up your county's website for exact information on fines.

What are the responsibilities of a bad/dangerous dog owner?

To avoid injuries and follow state regulations (in most cases), dangerous/bad dog owners must maintain a safe zone and safeguard their interests. Some common steps include -

  • - Register their dogs with the state and obtain a special license. 
  • - Post a visible dog warning sign or a bad dog sign.
  • - Limit the dog to an enclosure.
  • - Leash and/or muzzle the dog when out.
  • - Purchase liability insurance covering dog bites or injuries. Ask your insurance agent or provider for recommendations on insurance coverages.
  • - Spay or neuter the pet.
  • - Immediately notify an animal control agency when the dog is missing, has attacked, has been moved to another address, or dies.
  • - Apply tattoo, microchip, and/or a special collar.
  • - Inform the new owner in writing when the ownership changes.
  • - Euthanize the dog. In some states, the animal can be euthanized by the Animal Services if they feel the animal is dangerous.

What are ‘Bad Dog’ Signs?

Bad Dog Signs are effective warnings that owners of a dangerous dog post outside of their property to give a heads up to entrants.

Which dogs fall in the category of bad dogs?

The Dangerous Dog Laws in most states consider a dog as a ‘bad dog’, ' vicious dog’, or ‘dangerous dog’ if the dog has killed or seriously injured any person or animal by biting or attacking. Few states also consider dogs trained for animal fighting as dangerous. Some local governments and homeowner's insurers regard certain breeds like Rottweiler and Pitbull as dangerous dogs looking at their statistics on biting and aggression. Interestingly, some states have different categories for dogs. Like Illinois has “potentially dangerous,” “dangerous,” and “vicious”. Similarly, In New Hampshire, they fall under "nuisance," "menace," and "vicious".

Can posting ‘Beware of Dog’ signs help dog owners prevent an accident or protect against liability?

There is no study that signs prevent dog accidents and there is no explicit rule that says signs will save you from, or limit, liability. Based on the situation, Bad Dog Signs on-premises have helped certain legal battles in cases where the court thinks the victim knew about the danger and still took a chance of entering the dog-protected area. For instance, a Maryland court accepted clearly posted Dog Warning Signs as an affirmative defense in favor of the dog owner, concluding that the victim “voluntarily left his place of safety and crossed the threshold of danger.” If, however, the signs are not seen, are not conspicuously posted, or are faded/worn-out, they won’t count as an effective preventative warning or a legal tool.

What are the criminal penalties if a dangerous dog injures people?

Criminal penalties vary between the local county and municipal codes as well as state laws. For instance, Michigan law considers a ‘dangerous dog’ bite a misdemeanor. However, an accident could be a felony, if the injury is serious or involuntary manslaughter if the dog kills someone. Find more state-wise penalties here. 

Are there any design regulations for a ‘bad dog’ sign?

No. There are no specified size or design requirements. However, some recommended design elements to make the sign more effective are -
  • - adding a bold heading like WARNING, ATTENTION, BEWARE.
  • - using large and clear words like ‘bad dog’, ‘dangerous dog’, etc.
  • - adding a fierce dog or barking dog graphic – to enhance or broaden the potential understanding of the danger to others that don’t understand English well. Consider a bilingual sign, too.
The size should be big enough to spot and read from a safe distance.Many signs add text such as ‘No Trespassing’, ‘Dog on Premises’, or ‘Dog Will Bite’ to help clarify the message and enhance the warning.

What are ‘strict liability’ and ‘one bite’ dog laws?

In states with strict liability dog-bite laws, the dog owner is automatically liable for any injury or property damage the dog causes without provocation. Maximum states follow this law in the U.S.The one-bite law is where the dog owner is responsible for an injury caused by a dog only if the plaintiff can prove that the owner knew that the dog has bitten before or has vicious propensities. Texas, for example, has a one-bite law where the dog owner may allege that the victim provoked the dog, was teasing the dog, was aggressive, or assumed the risk of injury.The term "one bite" is often misinterpreted as the idea that a dog's first bite is "free"; after this first bite, the dog owner would be liable because they now know of the dog’s tendency to bite.

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