Arkansas dog bite laws do not yet exist because the state does not have a state-wide dog bite statute. However, there are laws that address vicious dog attacks involving dog owners who knowingly or negligently allows a dog to attack another person resulting in serious injury or death.
What to remember:
- Some counties in Arkansas practice the “one bite rule” and others have strict liability ordinances (no single statewide law addressing dog bites).
- The victim must prove that the dog owner was negligent in counties that practice strict liability.
- State guidelines hold the owner of a “dangerous dog” liable whether negligence was a factor.
- Victims and dog owner may resolve the issue out of court
- Negligence involving a dangerous dog leading to injury or death of a person is a misdemeanor.
Arkansas doctrines of negligence
Arkansas dog bite guidelines warn that negligently failing to keep control of your dog/animal is a violation of state law, thus the owner may be held strictly liable for any injuries inflicted on the victim. That tells you that the state of Arkansas expects you to leash your dog while in public, fence your yard to keep your dogs from wandering, and or pen the dog. Why?
A successful negligence claim in Arkansas requires the victim to prove that the owner of the dog owed him/her duty and that the owner/defendant breached that duty resulting in injury. This means if you invite someone to your home and he or she gets injured or bitten while on your property, then you are liable for injuries or damage caused.
What to remember:
- If a dog owner violates an ordinance or statute, for example, if he/she fails to obey leash laws, then the victim may use that as evidence of negligence (negligence per se).
- Restitution in most cases covers medical expenses and other reasonable expenses. To recover pain and suffering, lost incomes, damages, and so on, the victim may file a personal injury claim at the Arkansas civil court.
- The victim has three years to file a case.
The doctrine of “scienter” in Arkansas/one free bite rule
Scienter, or “one bite rule” refers to a variety of strict liability laws that say; the owner is not liable if he or she had no reason to believe that the dog had vicious propensities.
In practice, the victim may only recover compensation if he or she proves that:
- The dog has bitten or exhibited vicious propensities in the past.
- The owner was aware or should have known of the dog’s vicious propensities.
For example, if you put up a “DANGEROUS DOG” sign, that may be an admission of the danger the dog poses to the public.
What is a dangerous/vicious dog in Arkansas?
Municipal Code Sec. 10-9-vicious dog, defines a dangerous dog as quote:
“any dog with a known propensity, tendency or disposition to attack unprovoked, to cause injury or otherwise threaten the safety of human beings or domestic animals. (2) any dog which, without provocation, attacks or bites or has attacked and bitten a human being or child. (3) any dog owned or harbored primarily or in part for the purpose of dogfighting or any dog trained for dog fighting”.
What is crucial to remember is that Arkansas dog bite guidelines exclude any dog that acts to protect its owner’s property or person, police or public safety dogs, and service dogs from the list of dangerous dogs.
This means if a dog bites or injures a criminal intending to do you or the dog harm, then the owner is not liable.
Section 10-9 (c) of the code says “whoever violates any provision of this section shall be guilty of a misdemeanor. In addition, thereto, upon conviction, the owner or possessor of the vicious dog shall, within 30 days, euthanize said animal or permanently remove the animal from the county. If after the expiration of 30 days, said animal has not been removed from the county or euthanized, the sheriff may seize said animal for euthanization”.
It is also worth noting that cities including New Madrid, Caruthersville, Poplar Bluffs, Salem, Trumann Mountain Home, Lake City, and Batesville all have a dangerous dog ban. The list of dangerous dog breeds in these counties includes pit bulls, Staffordshire terriers, and mixed breed animals.
What is an unlawful dog attack in Arkansas?
Arkansas Code 5-62-125 defines an unlawful dog attack as an attack that occurs when the owner knows or has reason to know that the dog has vicious propensities. Also, if the owner negligently allows the dog to attack a person, or if the attack results in serious physical injury or death. The owner is guilty of a class A misdemeanor punishable by up to one year in jail and or a maximum fine of $2500.
What if my dog bites a child in Arkansas?
As mentioned, Arkansas dog leash laws require pet owners to create some type of barrier between the dog and potential victims. To ensure that dog owners follow these guidelines, the state has made it policy to impound or destroy any dog that is found in violation of Arkansas leash laws.
That means if your dog causes harm or damages property while at large, law enforcement may take and euthanize your dog.
If the owner had no reason to believe that the dog could endanger anyone, then local animal control may quarantine the dog for 10 days as a rabies precaution.
How to file a personal injury claim
After a dog bite, legal experts in Arkansas encourage victims to file a personal injury claim. Failure to file one means you will only get compensation for medical expenses. A personal injury claim on the other hand allows you to petition for lost wages, pain and suffering, emotional distress, and so on.
What to remember:
- You have three years to file a personal injury claim.
- The burden of proof is on the victim.
- Arkansas punitive/non-economic damages (mental anguish and so on). Is capped at $500000.
Arkansas Comparative Fault rule
A dog bite is sometimes the result of the victim’s actions. Because of that, Arkansas dog bite guidelines hold that the victim cannot pursue damages if he or she is responsible for 50% of the blame. For example, if you invite someone to your home and that visitor torments or provokes your dog leading to an attack, then the owner is not liable because the injuries are a direct result of the victim’s actions.
What to remember:
- “Comparative Fault” rule reduces the amount the victim may claim if the owner is 50% responsible for the accident.
What if my dog bites a trespasser?
Trespassing is a violation of the law, meaning, Arkansas dog bite guidelines do not hold the owner liable for any damages inflicted by a dog on a trespasser. However, if the owner knows that people frequently trespass (shortcuts) on his/her land, then the law requires you to take some steps to protect the trespasser. For example, put up a fence, leash the dog, and so on. Why?
Putting up a no-trespass sign tells or warns anyone entering your property that they are on dangerous ground. This frees you from any liability because the victim will be in violation of the law when a bite or injury happens.
We recommend you put up a No Trespass sign instead of a Dangerous or Beware of Dog sign.
Does Arkansas have a leash law?
The answer is it depends on where you are because each municipality has the right to make its guidelines regarding leashes. To be safe, we recommend that you keep your dog leashed while in public, confine it, and do not let it “go at large”.
“Dog at large” refers to any dog that is out of its yard without a leash and is a misdemeanor in Arkansas under section 10-50 (municipal code).
Overall, the best defenses you have are trespass, and provocation.
More Arkansas Laws