A Summary of Dog Bite Laws by State

Dog Bite Laws Summary by State

Think about the last time a dog growled at you.  Now, imagine that you are looking at that incident from the dog owners’ perspective…

Your fears quickly turn from, “oh no, that dog is going to bite me” to “will I go to jail if my dog harms that person?” “will law enforcement hold me liable for any dog bites that take place?” Can animal control take my dog for biting someone?  What is the 3-bite rule?

What you can be sure of is that in many states, dog bite laws strictly hold the owner liable for any injuries that take place.  What that means is, you, the owner, are financially responsible when your dog or other pet bites someone even if you did not know that the dog could be dangerous, or that it could bite someone.  However, that is where the uniformity of dog bite laws end.

Because, some states adopted ‘strict liability’ statutes while others have their specialized statutes such as the ‘one bite rule’, and some do not have specific dog bite statutes.

That raises a handful of questions.  For example, how do you prove liability?  What defenses do dog owners have when facing neglect charges?  And what animal protection laws exist?

The simple answer is it depends on state law.

A chart showing all the dog bite laws of varying states
Table Of Contents

What States Have the One-Bite Rule?

The chart below is a summary of dog bite laws and dog owner statutory liabilities (common law) for property damage caused by dogs and personal injury that may result from an encounter with a canine. 

The keywords to remember here are “statutory strict liability/common law” which exists when a dog owner or defendant is liable for committing an action, regardless of mental state or intent when committing the action.  What that means is the law may hold you responsible for the actions of your dog.

The other keyword is “vicious propensity” which refers to the tendency of an animal to do any act that might endanger the safety of property and persons in a given situation.  These keywords are vital to remember because starting 2019, thirty-six states adopted strict liability laws whereas the remaining fourteen including New York, Virginia, Wyoming, Texas, and so on do not have such laws.  What these states have in common, somewhat, are the classifications of “Nuisance Dogs, Potentially Dangerous Dogs, and dangerous or vicious dogs”.  Also, it is worth noting that there is no federal “dangerous dog law”, thus dangerous dog laws, determination, and procedures vary from state to state.

In brief, sixteen states including Wyoming, New York, Oregon, South Dakota, Virginia, and Wyoming have the one-bite rule.

If we look at it from the victim’s perspective, the questions that arise are, can I sue the owner if a dog bites me?  What states require doctors to report dog bites?

As you have seen, what complicates dog bite laws is that states mix and match their guidelines, thus in some states you may face a lawsuit for one bite, while in other states it may take up to three bites for the dog to be declared dangerous.

But what if the victim was a trespasser?  Or what if he or she provoked the dog?

Dog Bite Laws Chart by State

In short: the table below covers state guidelines that address dangerous dogs.  These are laws that define what a dangerous dog is, the legal procedures that determine whether a dog is dangerous, and all relevant issues you may have.

StateStatute/ authorityOwner liability/additional information
Alabama2006 Alabama-Code-SECTION 3-7A-9- Quarantine of dog or cat which bites human being; destruction of animal and examination of head; certain acts of or omissions by owner unlawful; delivery of quarantine instructions to owner; report of results; canine corps and seeing eye dogs.  The owner is liable for damage caused by dog only if the victim is legally on his/her property.   It is unlawful for any person in Alabama having knowledge that a human being has been bitten by a dog or cat to fail to notify a rabies officer or health officer.   “No dog bite statute
Alaska  HB 355: “An Act relating to annoying, dangerous, and potentially dangerous dogs; relating to keepers of dogs; and relating to the crimes of maintaining a dangerous dog and maintaining a potentially dangerous dog.”  The law holds the owner liable if he knew that the dog has dangerous propensities.   No dog bite statute
Arizona  1-1025.  Liability for dog bites A. “The owner of a dog which bites a person when the person is in or on a public place or lawfully in or on a private place, including the property of the owner of the dog, is liable for damages suffered by the person bitten, regardless of the former viciousness of the dog or the owner’s knowledge of its viciousness.”  No “one bite” rule.   Owner is liable for bites occurring while dog is at large. 
Arkansas   No dog bite statute.   Dog bite Victims may recover damages if the injury was a result of the owner’s negligence. 
California  3342. a “The owner of any dog is liable for the damages suffered by any person who is bitten by the dog while in a public place or lawfully in a private place, including the property of the owner of the dog, regardless of the former viciousness of the dog or the owner’s knowledge of such viciousness.”  Victim does not have to prove the dog’s former viciousness. The statute applies to injuries that happen when the dog is at large. 
Colorado  13-21-124.  Civil actions against dog owners. “(1) AS USED IN THIS SECTION, UNLESS THE CONTEXT OTHERWISE REQUIRES: (a) “BODILY INJURY” MEANS ANY PHYSICAL INJURY THAT RESULTS IN SEVERE BRUISING, MUSCLE TEARS, OR SKIN LACERATIONS REQUIRING PROFESSIONAL MEDICAL TREATMENT OR ANY PHYSICAL INJURY THAT REQUIRES CORRECTIVE OR COSMETIC SURGERY”.  Any victim that suffers serious injury may bring a civil action to recover damages.If the victim does not suffer serious bodily injury, he/she must prove the owner’s negligence.  
Connecticut  Sec. 22-357.  Damage by dogs to person or property.    “if any dog does any damage to either the body or property of any person, the owner or keeper, or, if the owner or keeper is a minor, the parent or guardian of such minor, shall be liable for the amount of such damage, except when such damage has been occasioned to the body or property of a person who, at the time such damage was sustained, was committing a trespass or other tort, or was teasing, tormenting or abusing such dog. “The victim must prove the injury was caused by the dog, that he/she was not trespassing at the time of the incident and that the defendant is or was the owner. 
Delaware  CHAPTER 17.  REMOVAL PROCEDURES FOR REGISTRATION RECORDS Del. Code Ann. § 1711State statutes covers all injuries whether the victim is human or not. The owner is liable for any bite that results in loss of property, death, or injuries. 
Florida  767.04 Dog owner’s liability for damages to persons bitten.   The owner of any dog that bites any person while such person is on or in a public place, or lawfully on or in a private place, including the property of the owner of the dog, is liable for damages suffered by persons bitten, regardless of the former viciousness of the dog or the owners’ knowledge of such viciousness.”One bite law.Owner may not be liable for damages if he/she posts a “bad dog sign”

Part B

StateStatute/authorityOwner liability/additional information/ penalty
GeorgiaGeorgia Code Title 51.  Torts.  Chapter 2 Imputable Negligence. §51-2-6.  §51-2-7 County rabies control officerNegligent dog owners are liable for injuries that occur when the dog is at large. Victims must show that the animal was required to be on a leash or at heel by an ordinance of a consolidated government, county, or city. Dog owners face up to a $5000 fine and or one-year imprisonment the first time their dog injures someone.   Legal defenses include provocation, lack of knowledge, and trespass. Strict liability state.   
Hawaii [§663-9] Liability of animal owners. Hawaii Humane society/ Honolulu Police Department.  Legal defenses include provocation, trespass, and or abuse.   Strict liability state. The victim must prove negligence.  
IdahoTitle 25 animals.  Chapter 28 Dogs.  25-2805.  Dogs Running at Large. The Department of Animal Control    One bite state The dog owner is liable for damages/injuries while the dog is at large. Defenses include provocation, trespass, dog protecting its young.    
IllinoisIllinois Statutes Chapter.  Animal Attacks or Injuries. (510 ILCS 5/16) (from Ch. 8, par. 366)  Strict liability state The owner is liable for all dog-related injuries. Defenses include provocation and or trespass  
IndianaIC 15-20-1Chapter 1.  Liability for Dog Bites   Strict liability state The dog is liable for damages if injuries happen because of negligence or if he/she knew of the dog’s dangerous propensities. Class C misdemeanor ($500 fine and or 60 days in jail).  
Iowa351.28 Liability for damagesDOGS AND OTHER ANIMALS, §351.28 The dog owner is not liable if the dog has rabies, and he/she did not know about the dog’s condition.  You may also be liable if the injured person was not engaged in an unlawful act at the time of the bite or injury.   Legal defenses include trespass and provocation. The victim must prove the dog owner’s negligence. Strict liability state.    
KansasN/AOne bite state Victims may file a lawsuit seeking compensation for damages including medical expenses, pain and suffering, and lost wages  
Kentucky§258.235 “Authority to kill or seize dog — Return by court to owner of vicious dog — Liability for damage — Proceeding by person attacked by dog — Disposition of dog after seizure — Powers of animal control officer — Vicious dog not to run at large. Strict liability state The Dog owner is liable if he/she had knowledge of the dog’s vicious propensities or if the injuries are a result of negligence. The owner may receive a maximum of $200 fine and or 10 to 60 days in jail.    
Louisiana2011 Louisiana Laws
Civil Code
CC 2321 — Damage caused by animals
  Universal Citation: LA Civ Code 2321 Art. 2321.  Damage caused by animals  
 strict liability state The victim may have to prove dog owner negligence. The dog owner is liable for all preventable injuries and or damage that did not result from provocation. Legal defenses include trespass and provocation.    
Maine§3955 Title 78: Agriculture and Animals.  Part 9: Animal welfare.  Chapter 729: Damage by Animals.    Strict liability state The owner is strictly liable for damage or injury that occurs while the dog is at large. The victim may file a civil action against the owner if injury or property damage was not his/her fault  
Maryland§10-619.  Dangerous Dog    One bite state/common-law rules of negligence. Legal defenses include trespass, attempted crime on property, abusing, teasing, or tormenting the dog.  
MassachusettsSection 155: Liability for damage caused by dog; minors; presumption and burden of proof  Strict liability state. Legal defenses include trespass, teasing, and animal torment unless the victim is below seven years old.    
MichiganLIABILITY OF OWNER FOR DOG BITE (EXCERPT)
Act 73 of 1939


287.351 Person bitten by dog; liability of owner.  
The dog owner is liable for damages or injury that occur while the dog is at large. Legal defenses include provocation and trespass  
Minnesota347.22 DAMAGES, OWNER LIABLE.  The dog owner is liable for attacks, injuries, or damage that result without provocation in any public place
Mississippi§97-41-16 Animals, Dog: Causing Malicious or Mischievous injuryOne bite rule. The dog owner is liable if/she knew of the dog’s vicious propensities  
MissouriTitle XVII Agriculture and Animals Chapter 273. 273.036. Owner Liable, when-fine Amount.Dog bite victim may recover personal injuries against the owner if he/she can prove the owner knew or should have known about the Dog’s Vicious propensities. The owner may receive a $1000 fine  
Montana 27-1-715.  Liability of owner of vicious dog Doctrine of negligence, negligence per se, scienter, and intentional tort.   modified’ Strict liability state The owner is liable if the bite took place in an incorporated town or city. The state does not consider comparative negligence or other affirmative defenses. Legal defenses include trespass and provocation.  
NebraskaNebraska Revised statute 54-601 (statute excerpt (1))  “Dogs are hereby declared to be personal property for all intents and purposes, and, except as provided in subsection (2) of this section, the owner or owners of any dog or dogs shall be liable for any and all damages that may accrue (a) to any person, other than a trespasser, by reason of having been bitten by any such dog or dogs and (b) to any person, firm, or corporation by reason of such dog or dogs killing, wounding, injuring, worrying, or chasing any person or persons or any sheep or other domestic animals belonging to such person, firm, or corporation. Such damage may be recovered in any court having jurisdiction of the amount claimed.”    Summary: Nebraska is a strict liability state. Dogs must be restrained when not in a secure enclosure on the owner’s property. The owner is not liable for damages or injury resulting from a dog’s mischievousness or playfulness.Trespassing is a valid defense.  
            Nevada  Nevada Negligence Per Se Law NRS 202.500 Dangerous or vicious dogs: Unlawful acts; penalties.  Summary One bite rule (owner must know that the animal would attack someone).The law holds the owner liable if the dog has been classified as a dangerous or vicious dog, has bitten someone previously, or if the owner is negligent.Defenses include trespass, provocation. The victim may claim compensation by proving the owner’s negligence.  
New Hampshire  Title XLV Animals chapter 466 Dogs and Cats N.H. Ann. 466:19  Summary Strict liability state. Victims may recover compensation for any mischievous acts that result in injury caused by the dog.  
New jersey  N.J. Stat. Ann. § 4:19-16The owner of any dog which shall bite a person while such person is on or in a public place, or lawfully on or in a private place, including the property of the owner of the dog, shall be liable for such damages as may be suffered by the person bitten, regardless of the former viciousness of such dog or the owner’s knowledge of such viciousness.”  Summary       Strict liability state.The law holds the owner strictly liable if damages or injury happened on public property or if the victim was lawfully on private property. The victim may file a negligence claim against the owner.  
New Mexico  N/A UJI 13-506 (Jury instruction) Negligence per se.Summary Strict liability stateThe victim may file a negligence claim against the owner. State law holds the owner liable if he/she had knowledge of the dogs’ vicious propensities or if the victim proves the owner’s negligence(scienter).  
New York  N.Y. Agriculture & Markets Law, § 123(10)any person who witnesses an attack or threatened attack, or in the case of a minor, an adult acting on behalf of such minor, may make a complaint of an attack or threatened attack upon a person, companion animal as defined in section three hundred fifty of this chapter, farm animal as defined in such section three hundred fifty, or a domestic animal as defined in subdivision seven of section one hundred eight of this article to a dog control officer or police officer of the appropriate municipality. Such officer shall immediately inform the complainant of his or her right to commence a proceeding as provided in subdivision two of this section and, if there is reason to believe the dog is a dangerous dog, the officer shall forthwith commence such proceeding himself or herself”.  Summary One bite rule. The law holds the owner liable if he knew the dog’s vicious propensities, or if the dog often jumps on people or is classified as ‘dangerous’ as per state law. Legal defenses include trespass and provocation
            North Carolina  N.C. Gen. Stat. Ann. § 67-12, 67-4.4, 67-4.1 Running at the large statute.  Summary One bite rule (owner must know that the animal would attack someone). The law holds owners of ‘dangerous dogs’ strictly liable for damages or injury. State “running at large” statute holds the owner liable for any damages that occur when the dog is at large.  
North Dakota  N/A North Dakota Supreme Court case of Sendelbach v. Grad (negligence). Local leash laws  Summary State law holds the owner liable if the victim proves negligence.The victim may file a negligence claim against the owner or use local leash laws.  
Ohio  955.28 Dog may be killed for certain acts – owner liable for damages-Excerpt (A) “Subject to divisions (A)(2) and (3) of section 955.261 of the Revised Code, a dog that is chasing or approaching in a menacing fashion or apparent attitude of attack, that attempts to bite or otherwise endanger, or that kills or injures a person or a dog that chases, threatens, harasses, injures, or kills livestock, poultry, other domestic animals, or other animals, that is the property of another person, except a cat or another dog, can be killed at the time of that chasing, threatening, harassment, approaching, attempt, killing, or injury. If in attempting to kill such a dog, a person wounds it, the person is not liable to prosecution under the penal laws that punish cruelty to animals. Nothing in this section precludes a law enforcement officer from killing a dog that attacks a police dog as defined in section 2921.321 of the Revised Code.”  Summary Defenses include criminal trespass, criminal activity, tormenting, teasing, or abuse. Victims may file a case on a negligence or strict liability basis.The victim may not have to prove the owner’s negligence.  
Oklahoma  Okla. Stat. Ann. § 4-42.1  Summary State law holds the owner strictly liable if the victim did not provoke the attack and was not trespassing.Any person may lawfully kill a dog that is chasing his/her livestock.Owners of dangerous dogs must register the dog. Dangerous dog owners must maintain $50,000 insurance liability insurance cover for the dog.  
Oregon  Oregon Revised Statutes, section 31.360 Chapter 609-Dogs; Exotic Animals; Dealers: 609.115 Negligence per se laws.  Summary The victim may seek economic or non-economic damages. The plaintiff may not have to prove owner negligence. Economic damages include Necessary Incurred Expenses such as hospital bills, rehabilitative services, medical expenses, etc.  
Pennsylvania  Pa. Consol. Stat. § 459-502-A  § 459-502-A. Court proceedings, certificate of registration, and disposition  Summary State law holds the owner strictly liable if he/she knew of the dog’s vicious propensities.The victim may file a liability dog bite claim against the owner or a one bite claim.  The victim may recover full compensation if he/she can prove the owner’s negligence or failure to comply with state leash laws.  
            Rhode Island  § 4-13-16. Action for damages to animals – Double Damages on Second Recovery – Destruction of offending dog. (Excerpt) “if any dog kills, wounds, worries, or assists in killing, wounding or worrying, any sheep, lamb, cattle, horse, hog, swine, fowl, or other domestic animal belonging to or in the possession of any person, or assaults, bites, or otherwise injures any person while traveling the highway or out of the enclosure of the owner or keeper of that dog, the owner or keeper of the dog shall be liable to the person aggrieved, for all damage sustained, to be recovered in a civil action, with costs of suit. If afterward any such damage is done by that dog, the owner or keeper of the dog shall pay to the party aggrieved double the damage, to be recovered in the manner set forth and an order shall be made by the court before whom that second recovery is made, for killing the dog. The order shall be executed by the officer charged with the execution of the order, and it shall not be necessary, in order to sustain this action, to prove that the owner or keeper of the dog knew that the dog was accustomed to causing this damage.”  Summary State law holds the owner strictly liable if the bite or attack occurs when the dog is at large, Defenses include provocation and trespass.  
South Carolina  S.C. Code Ann. § 47-3-110  Summary State law holds the owner liable if the bite occurs on public property or if the victim was lawfully on private property. Defenses include provocation and trespass.  
South Dakota  Blaha v. Stuard, 640 N.W.2d 85 (S.D. 2002)  Summary One bite state (owner must know that the animal would attack someone). Strict liability law.The assumption of risk is not applicable if the victim had no knowledge of the danger posed by the dog.  
Tennessee  Tenn. Code Ann. § 44-­8­-413 -excerpt (a) “44­8­413.  Civil liability for injury caused by dogs.  (a) (1) The owner of a dog has a duty to keep that dog under reasonable control at all times and to keep that dog from running at large. A person who breaches that duty is subject to civil liability for any damages suffered by a person who is injured by the dog while in a public place or lawfully in or on the private property of another.”  Summary Strict liability/one bite liability.State law holds the owner liable for all damages.Defenses include trespass, confinement, and provocation Victims have 12 months to file a lawsuit.  
Texas  N/A V.T.C.A., Health & Safety Code § 822.005  Summary One bite rule (owner must know that the animal would attack someone).The dog owner may face civil liability charges and or criminal charges. Dog owners may also face felony charges if the victim proves “criminal negligence” or if the owner knows that the dog is dangerous. Defenses include trespassing and lack of awareness of the dog’s dangerous propensities
Utah    Utah Code Ann. § 18-1-1 Excerpt (1). A. “except as provided in subsection (2), a person who owns or keeps a dog is liable for an injury caused by the dog, regardless of whether (i) the dog is vicious or mischievous; or (ii) the owner knows the dog is vicious or mischievous)”.    Summary Strict liability state. Victims have four years to bring the case to court.The victim may file a negligence claim. The owner may use “comparative negligence”, provocation or trespass as defenses.  
Vermont    Hillier v. Noble, 142 Vt. 552, 458 A.2d 1101 (Vt. 1983) 20 V.S.A § 3546 (Excerpt) “When a domestic pet or wolf-hybrid has bitten a person while the domestic pet or wolf-hybrid is off the premises of the owner or keeper, and the person bitten requires medical attention for the attack, such person may file a written complaint with the legislative body of the municipality. The complaint shall contain the time, date and place where the attack occurred, the name and address of the victim or victims, and any other facts that may assist the legislative body in conducting its investigation required by subsection (b).”  Summary One bite rule. The victim must prove that the injury or damage resulted from the owner’s negligence.  
Virginia  § 3.2-6540. Control of dangerous dogs; penalties. Butler v. Frieden, 158 S.E.2d 121 (Va. 1967).  Summary: One bite rule (owner must know that the animal would attack someone).Victims have two years starting the date of the incident to file a claim. Victims may file a negligence claim against the owner or by proving that the owner failed to obey leash laws.  
WashingtonWash. Rev. Code § 16-08-040 (excerpt) “(1) The owner of any dog which shall bite any person while such person is in or on a public place or lawfully in or on a private place including the property of the owner of such dog, shall be liable for such damages as may be suffered by the person bitten, regardless of the former viciousness of such dog or the owner’s knowledge of such viciousness. (2) This section does not apply to the lawful application of a police dog, as defined in RCW 4.24.410.”  Summary The victim may recover compensation under negligence per se, scienter, international tort, or the doctrines of negligence. The state holds the owner strictly liable if he or she unreasonably fails to control the dog. Service dogs (law enforcement) are not subject to strict liability laws.  
Wisconsin   Wis. Stat. § 174.02(1)(a) – First Bite Wis. Stat. § 174.02(1)(b) – Second Bite Summary State law holds the owner strictly liable if the dog bites the victim with enough force to cause permanent physical scarring, disfigurement, or breaks the skin. The owner of a “law enforcement dog” is not liable for any damages caused when performing law enforcement functions”.  
            Wyoming  N/A Common-Law Borns ex rel. Gannon v. Voss, 70 P.3d 262 (Wyo. 2003)  Summary One bite state (owner must know that the animal would attack someone).The victim must prove owner negligence or failure to control the animal.The victim may seek economic and non-economic damages.  
   

Definitions

One bite rule: the law holds the dog’s owner or other domesticated animals strictly liable for injuries caused by the animal if he/she knew, or should have known about the animal’s vicious propensities.

Strict liability: the law holds that the owner of a domesticated animal is responsible for injury to a person or property whether he/she knew of the dog’s vicious propensity.

Vicious propensity: refers to the tendency of a dog to do any act that might endanger the safety of a person(s) or property in a given situation.