Does every dog get one bite free? What is an owner’s liability if their dog bites someone? Professor Diane Sullivan explains when and how you could be held responsible when your dog bites on this episode of The Massachusetts School of Law’s A Point of Law.

Educational Video from The Massachusetts School of Law.

The following is a rough transcript of the video “Animal Rights Facts: Dog Bite Liability”.  It was downloaded via YouTube machine transcriptions.

most of us know the great joy and happiness
that animals bring to our lives my dogs whitey
and winnie always bring a smile to my face
as a professor in our animal law initiative
I am often asked about liability if a dog
bites and whether it’s really true that every
dog gets one bite free
that is without owner liability
in massachusetts the owner or keeper of a
dog is strictly liable for a dog bite
unless the victim was trespassing teasing
tormenting or abusing the dog or committing
some other civil wrong
minors under the age of seven are presumed
not to be committing trespass
teasing tormenting or abusing
or committing some other tort
so the burden then would be upon the dog owner
if the child is under the age of seven
thus it’s important to keep your dog safe
of others expecially young children
as the guardian of a dog it is expected
that you properly secure your dog so the dog
cannot injure
make certain you do not entrust your dog with
someone unfit to properly restrain the
dog if necessary
because massachusetts imposes strict liability
there is no requirement that the owner be
negligent in proving liability
other states may base liability on a common
law theory of negligence
which requires a showing that the dog owner
or guardian owed a legal duty to the injured
party and that that duty was breached
in these jurisdictions
the court may consider whether the guardian
knew of the animals propensity to bite
the law recognizes most dogs are friendly
so there is no imposition of liability unless
the pets guardian had notice of the likelihood
of the dog biting
irrespective of whether you are in a strict
liability state like massachusetts or not
if a dog is tormented incited provoked those
actions will be a defense to owner liability
either reducing or barring the plaintiff’s
claim
provoking
annoying or harming a dog is not acceptable
behavior
and our law generally recognizes this except
if a child is very young and the child may
then lack the requisite intent
also just about all states have dangerous
or vicious dog laws
making owners of such dogs strictly liable
so as the saying goes quote
breed not a savage dog
nor permit a loose stairway