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Dogs and dog bites have long been a concern among insurance personnel. Underwriting has to determine whether or not to write a policy when a dog is in the house, and claims adjusters have to settle claims when a bite has occurred. Each state has statutes dealing with the issues of liability laws, definition of dangerous dog, and leash laws. As there is a volume of information, charts are provided for each section. Other topics can be found at Dog Bite Statutes Part II—Definition of “Dangerous” and Dog Bite Statutes Part III—Leash Laws]. The statutes are listed with each section. 

State

Applicable Statute(s)

Liability Laws

Alabama

Ala. Code § 3-1-3; 3-6-1; 11-47-110

Owner is liable for injuries when victim has a   legal right to be on location and dog without provocation bites/injures said   victim. If owner keeps dangerous animal and allows it to run free or animal   escapes and injures another person without fault on his part owner is liable.   No breed restrictions.

Alaska

AS § 03.55.010 – .070; 11 AAC 12.130

Liability of owner not discussed; if a dog   worries livestock or other animals others are permitted to kill dog. If owner   can be identified owner has chance to restrain dog before it is lawful to   kill the dog.   No breed restrictions. Unincorporated villages can establish own dog control   ordinances.

Arizona

A.R.S. §§ 11- 1001, 11-1012, 11-1025,11-1026,   11-1027

Owner liable when victim is in or on public place   or lawfully in or on private place, including property of dog owner. Police   or military dogs are exceptions in certain instances. Proof of provocation is   defense.   No breed restrictions.

Arkansas

A.C.A.§ 20-19-102; 20-19-310; 20-19-408

Owner is liable if dog harms domesticated animal   (sheep, goats, cattle, swine).   Wolf-dog hybrids restricted; must have rabies shot, be properly fed, proof of   health.

California

Cal. Civ. Code § 3342   Ann. Ca. Health & Safety Code 122331   Ann. Cal. Food & Agric. Code 31602, 30954

Owner liable when victim is in public place or   lawfully in private place, including property of owner of dog. Police or   military dogs are exceptions in certain instances.   State disallows breed restrictions and only allows breed-specific ordinances   regarding spay/neuter programs and breeding requirements. No breed shall be   declared potentially dangerous.

Colorado

C.R.S.A. § 13-21-124;   18-9-204.5; 25-4-610

Owner liable while victim lawfully on public or   private property.

Connecticut

C.G.S.A. § 22-357; 22-364

Owner liable if dog damages property or injures   person unless person was committing a trespass or other tort or was teasing,   tormenting, or abusing dog. Children under seven years of age are assumed to   not have been trespassing or harassing dog unless proven otherwise. Household   members of law enforcement assigned dogs presumed not liable unless proven to   be keeper of the dog.

Delaware

16 Del.C. § 3048F, 3051F, 3053F, 3076F, 3077F.   formerly cited as 9 Del. C. 908, 911, 913, 925, 926

Owner liable if dog damages property or   injures/kills person unless person was committing a trespass or other   criminal offense against the property of the owner or any person or was   teasing, tormenting, or abusing dog. Any person can injure or kill a dog to   protect livestock, poultry, or another human if the dog is attacking.  Police officer or animal control can kill a   dog if deemed an immediate threat to public health.   No breed restrictions—restrictions apply to dangerous/potentially dangerous   dogs as defined.   Dangerous dog must be spayed/neutered, minimum liability coverage of $100,000   for injuries by dog; confined by owner and when outside enclosure must be   muzzled and chained. Premises marked with sign that dangerous dog is on   premises. Owner must notify animal control if the dog is loose, has attacked   a human or domestic animal, has moved to a new address, or dies.

District of Columbia

DC ST § 1-303.41; 8-1901; 8-1902; 8-1906; 22-1311

Owner of dangerous dog that causes serious injury   or kills a human or domestic animal without provocation will be fined up to   $10,000.   No breed restrictions. Dangerous dogs can be registered once certain conditions   are met, such as shots, enclosure, and liability policy. 

Florida

FL ST § 767.04; 767.14

Owner liable when victim in public place or   lawfully on or in private place, including property of  owner of dog. Negligence on part of victim   reduces liability of owner by percentage that the victim’s negligence   contributed to the injury. Owner is not liable to anyone over six unless   owner is some way negligent if at the time of injury the owner has a sign on   premises that is easily readable and includes the words “bad dog.”   No breed restrictions.  Local   government can put further restrictions on dangerous dogs, but the regulation   cannot be breed-specific.

Georgia

Ga. Code Ann., § 4-8-25 thru 4-8-30; 51-2-7

Owner solely liable for injury/death to a person   by a dangerous or potentially dangerous dog.   Dog must be registered, owner must confine dog, premises must be posted with   warning sign, and owner will have at least $50,000 of liability insurance for   injury inflicted by dog; extra registration fee may be charged. Dog must be   muzzled if outside proper enclosure.   Local governments can establish ordinances that are more restrictive than   annotated codes but cannot be less restrictive.

Hawaii

HRS § 142-75; 143-14; 663-9; 663-9.1

Any dog who has bitten a human on two separate   occasions; person liable can be owner or harborer of dog. No liability if   victim was on location unlawfully or teased, tormented, or abused the dog.   Owner strictly liable only if animal is known by its species or nature to be   dangerous, wild, or vicious if the animal proximately caused injury or   property damage.   Each county can enact ordinances regulating people who own, harbor, or keep   any dog that has bitten/injured/maimed a person.

Idaho

I.C. § 18-5812B; 25-2801; 25-2805

Dogs must be licensed, and dogs at large must   have collar and tags. Vicious dogs must be in secure enclosure, and if   outside of enclosure must be restrained by a chain sufficient to control the   dog. Dog owner is liable to the owner of any livestock or poultry for dog   killing, worrying, or wounding livestock/poultry.   No breed restrictions.

Illinois

510 ILCS5/2.05a;    5/2.17c; 5/2.19b;  5/14; 5/16

Owner liable if victim is any place where victim   may lawfully be if dog attacks unprovoked.

Indiana

IC 15-20-1-3

Owner liable to any person peaceably conducting   himself in any place where he may be required for discharging duty imposed   upon him by laws of state or by laws or postal regulations of U.S. Owner   liable for all damages to person even if owner had no knowledge of prior   vicious behavior by the dog.   No breed restrictions. City and county can prohibit dogs from running at   large and apply restrictions for the control of rabies or other purposes.

Iowa

I.C.A. § 351.28; 351.40;351.41

Owner liable when dog worries, maims, or kills a   domestic animal or attacks or attempts to bite a person except when person is   doing unlawful act directly contributing to the injury.

Kansas

KS ST § 47-645; 47-646; 21-6418

Owners of dogs are liable if the dog kills,   wounds, or worries any domestic animal. It is lawful for a person to kill any   dog found injuring or attempting to injure livestock. Permitting a dangerous   animal to be at large is a class B nonperson misdemeanor.

Kentucky

KRS § 258.095; 258.235; 258.255; 258.265; 258.990

Owner liable for any damage to person, livestock,   or other property caused by dog. Unlawful to let vicious dog run at large.   Owner liable to pay for any injuries inflicted by dog that bites a human.   No breed restrictions. Vicious dog returned to owner must be confined in a   locked enclosure at least seven feet high or in a locked kennel run with a   secure top. Dog may leave enclosure only to visit the vet or be turned in to   an animal shelter. Dog is to be muzzled if it leaves the enclosure.

Louisiana

LSA-C.C. Art. 2321; LSA-R.S. 3:2731; 3:2652;   3:2771

Owner, harborer, or possessor of any dog that   kills, harasses, or wounds livestock is liable to the owner of livestock for   damages sustained. Owner strictly liable for damages or injuries to   person/property caused by the dog, which the owner could have prevented and   which did not result from the person’s provocation of the dog.   Parishes and municipalities may enact ordinances for regulating dogs running   at large.

Maine

7 M.R.S.A. § 3901; 3907; 3948; 3952; 3961

Dangerous dog owner who fails to comply with   court order and dog wounds any person or wounds/kills any domestic animal,   the dog owner shall pay treble damages.   Owner of any dog is liable to person/property that dog injures/damages.   Amount may be reduced if bitten person was more at fault than the dog.   No breed-specific restrictions. Owning or keeping a dangerous dog is a civil   violation. Dog must be kept in secure enclosure, which is a fence or   structure at least six feet high and must be locked, with secure top, bottom,   and sides to prevent dog from escaping. Owner must provide photos of the dog   to animal control, and the dog must be tattooed or microchipped for   identification. Dog allowed out to go to vet or comply with court orders;   must be muzzled and on a tether no more than three feet long with minimum   tensile strength of 300 pounds.

Maryland

MD Code, Criminal Law, § 10-619; Md. Code Ann.,   Local Gov’t § 13-105

Varies by county: each county may establish local   law/ordinance for the compensation of any person whose sheep, livestock, or   poultry is destroyed/injured by a dog.      No breed specifications. Dangerous dog must be confined indoors, in a   securely enclosed and locked pen, or in another structure to restrain the   dog. Owner may not allow a dangerous dog to leave the property unless the dog   is leashed and muzzled. If selling/giving away dog must give notice of   dangerous status.

Massachusetts

M.G.L.A. 131 § 82; 140 § 155; 140 § 159; 140 §   167; 140 § 174B;

Owner/keeper of dog is liable for damage/injury   to a person or property unless the person was committing a trespass or other   tort, or was teasing, tormenting, or abusing such dog. If victim is under seven   years old it is assumed he was not committing tort or harassing dog unless   proven otherwise.   If the chief of police or district court have ordered a dog to be restrained   and the dog wounds a person or worries, wounds, or kills livestock or fowl,   the owner if the dog is liable for treble damages.   No breed restrictions. City/town can enact bylaws and ordinances relative to   the regulation of dogs.

Michigan

M.C.L.A. 91.1; 287.262; 287.321; 287.351;

Owner is liable if dog bites person without   provocation while person is on public property or lawfully on private   property. Owner liable for any injuries regardless of the former viciousness   of the dog or owner’s knowledge of such viciousness.

Minnesota

M.S.A. § 347.14; 347.22; 347.50 thru 347.53

Owner liable if dog without provocation attacks   or injures person who is acting peaceably where person may lawfully be.   Any statutory or home rule charter city or any county may regulate dangerous   and potentially dangerous dogs. Dangerous dog must be registered and owner   must have proper enclosure on premises for dog and posting that there is a   dangerous dog on premises. Owner needs at minimum a $300,000 surety bond and   dog must be microchipped. Dog must be muzzled if off property and on a chain   or leash.

Mississippi

Miss. Code Ann. §21-19-9; 41-53-11

No dangerous dog restrictions; dogs at large   without tags may be caught and killed after five days by any sheriff,   conservation, or peace officer.

Missouri

V.A.M.S. 79.400; 273.020; 273.030; 273.100

No dangerous dog restrictions. Owner of dog that   kills or maims sheep or other domestic animals is liable to the owner of such   animal. Dogs running at large may be impounded.

Montana

MCA 7-23-102; 27-1-715; 81-7-402

Owner liable for damages if dog without   provocation bites any person while person is in public place or lawfully on   or in private place, including property of owner of dog. The former   viciousness of the dog or owner’s knowledge of same does not change liability.   Owner liable for actual value of livestock or poultry killed or injured by   owner’s dog.

Nebraska

Neb.Rev.St. § 17-526; 54-601; 54-607; 54-608;   54-617; 54-618; 54-619; 54-624; NE LEGIS 1055 (2008)

Any governing board of any county, city, or   village can establish laws or ordinances at least as stringent as 54-617 to   54-623.   Owner liable for any and all damages that result from dog biting a person   other than a trespasser or for dog killing, wounding, or worrying any person   or sheep or other domestic animal.   No breed restrictions. Dangerous dogs to be spayed/neutered and microchipped   within thirty days of declaration as dangerous dog. Dog not allowed off   property without a chain or leash. Can be transported to vet only. Dog must   be confined when on property unattended indoors or in securely enclosed and   locked pen with secure sides and a secure top. Structure must be ten feet   from property. Warnings signs at least 10×12 must be posted.

Nevada

N.R.S. 202.500; 503.636; 575.020

Owner guilty of misdemeanor. Liable to owner of   livestock injured by dog for said injuries.

New Hampshire

N.H. Rev. Stat. § 466:19; 466.29; 466:31; 466.33

Owner liable to owner of property including   sheep, livestock, and domestic animals for injuries caused by dog. Not liable   if person was committing trespass/tort.

New Jersey

N.J.S.A. 4:19-16; 4:19-22; 4:19-23; 40:48-1

Owner liable if dog bites person when person is   in public place or lawfully on a private place, including dog owner’s   property. Liable for damages regardless of former viciousness of dog or   owner’s knowledge of viciousness.

New Mexico

N.M.S.A. 1978, § 77-1A-5; 6; 2

Violation of handling provisions results in   criminal charges ranging from misdemeanor to third degree felony. Owner   liable to owner of any livestock killed/injured by dog. Unlawful to keep dog   after it has killed livestock.   No breed restrictions. In order for potentially dangerous dog to be   registered owner of dangerous dog must be able to keep dog under control at   all times; have enclosure for dog; dog must have license, rabies vaccination,   be spayed/neutered, and microchipped; and must be in a socialization and   behavior program approved by animal control authority. For dangerous dog to   be registered owner must have written permission of property owner/homeowners   association if applicable. Dog will be kept on premises except for medical   treatment/examination. When removed from property dog will be caged or   muzzled and restrained with a lead no longer than four feet.  Dog will not be transported in a vehicle   from which he could escape or gain access to people/animals outside the   vehicle.  Warning sign must be posted   on premises where dog is kept. Fee must be paid for both types of   registrations.

New York

N.Y. Agric. & Mkts. Law § 108; 121; 122;   123  (McKinney) Envtl. Conserv. Law §   11-0923 (McKinney)

Owner who through act or omission negligently   allows dog to bite person/animal causing injury is subject to civil penalty.   If dog has previously been identified as dangerous, owner is guilty of   misdemeanor and must pay medical and other expenses to injured party.   Dangerous dog must be restrained when in public by adult over twenty-one; and   must be muzzled to prevent biting but not to interfere with dog’s   vision/respiration. Owner must maintain $100,000 liability policy. Judge can   order death of dog if dog attacked without provocation and resulted in   serious injury or death of person; caused serious injury/death to   companion/farm/domestic animal and in past two years has caused unjustified   injury/death to a companion/farm animal. Dog is not dangerous if person was   committing crime or offense upon owner/custodian of dog, injured person was   tormenting, assaulting, or threatening dog or offspring;   farm/companion/domestic animal was attacking dog or offspring.

North Carolina

N.C. Gen Stat. Ann. § 67-4.1 thru 67-4.5; 67-12

Owner of dangerous dog that attacks person and   causes physical injuries requiring medical treatment in excess of $100 is   guilty of a class 1 misdemeanor. Owner strictly liable in civil damages for   any injuries/property damage the dog inflicts on a person, property, or other   animal.   City or county can adopt/enforce its own program for control of dangerous   dogs. No mention of breed restrictions.    Unattended dangerous dog must be confined when on property either   indoors or in a securely enclosed and locked pen; dog must be leashed and   muzzled before leaving property.

North Dakota

NDCC 40-05-01; 42-03-01; 42-01-08

Municipalities have power to restrict running at   large of animals. Dog considered a public nuisance when dog habitually   molests a person traveling peaceably on the public road or street. Owner will   be ordered to prevent dog from being a nuisance. Individual may maintain an   action for a public nuisance if it is specially injurious to that person or   person’s property, but not otherwise. Dangerous dogs not specifically   addressed.

Ohio

R.C. § 955.22; 995.221; 995.26; 955.28

Owner of dog is liable in damages for injury,   death, or loss to person or property caused by the dog unless the person was   committing a criminal trespass or was tormenting, teasing, or abusing the dog   or its owner’s property.

Oklahoma

4 Okl.St.Ann. § 42.1; 43 thru 46

Unlawful for owner of dangerous dog to permit the   dog to be outside a proper enclosure unless dog is muzzled and restrained by   a substantial chain/lease and is under physical restraint of someone over the   age of  sixteen The muzzle shall not   injure the dog or interfere with vision or breathing. Dangerous dogs must be   registered. Premises must be posted with visible warning sign of dangerous   dog on property, owner must have liability policy with at least $50,000 for   injuries inflicted by the dangerous dog.   Owner is liable for full amount of damages inflicted by dog when dog without   provocation bit or injured someone where that person has a lawful right to   be.

Oregon

O.R.S. § 609.035; 609.060; 609.095;   609.098; 609.140; 609.990

Owner of dangerous dog may be ordered to pay   restitution to injured person or for property damaged by the dog.   Owner of livestock that has been injured/wounded/killed by any dog has a   cause of action against the owner for the damages resulting therefrom, including   double the value of the any livestock killed and double the amount of any   damage to the livestock.

Pennsylvania

3 Pa. Stat. Ann. § 459-301; 459-304; 459-305;   459-502-A; 459-503-A; 7 Pa. Code § 27.12

Dangerous dogs must be registered. Dog must be   kept confined in proper enclosure or when off property of owner for   veterinary care dog must be muzzled and on a leash. Leash must be no longer   than three feet and have a minimum tensile strength of 300 pounds. Visible   warning sign must be on premises where dangerous dog lives. Surety bond for   $50,000 is required payable to anyone injured by the dog. Liability insurance   of at least $50,000 is also required for injuries inflicted by the dangerous   dog. Dangerous dog tag is to be worn on dog’s collar at all times.

Rhode Island

4 R.I. Gen. Laws Ann. § 4-13-15.1;   4-13.1-2; 1-4; 1-7; 

Vicious dogs must be confined in a locked   enclosure. Dog can be outside of dwelling/enclosure only when necessary to   seek veterinary care or to comply with dog officer. Dog shall be muzzled and   restrained with a leash/chain with a minimum tensile strength of 300 pounds   and no more than three feet in length. Dog must be in direct control of   owner/keeper of the dog. Owner of dog is liable to injured party for all   damages sustained.

South Carolina

S.C. Code Ann. § 47-3-50; 47-3-110;   47-3-710; 47-3-720; 51-3-145

Dangerous animal not to go unconfined on   premises. Animal must be securely indoors or in a securely enclosed fence or   enclosed and locked pen. The enclosure must be clearly marked as containing a   dangerous animal and must be designed to prevent children/general public   entry or escape of the animal.  Owner   of dog that attacks/injures a domestic animal is guilty of a misdemeanor and   may be fined no more than $200 or jailed no more than thirty days. If dog   attacks/injures person a fine of $5,000 may be imposed and jail time of no   more than three years may be sentenced. While person in public/private place   lawfully and is attacked by dog, owner is liable for damages suffered by   victim. Owner of dog is not liable if dog was provoked to attack.

South Dakota

S.D. Codified Laws §40-34-2;   40-34-14;  40-34-15

Owner of dog that chases, worries, injures, or   kills poultry or domestic animal is liable for damages to the owner of the   any such poultry/animal.

Tennessee

T.C.A. § 44-8-413

Owner of dog has duty to keep dog under   reasonable control at all times. Breach of this makes owner subject to civil   liability for damages suffered by person injured by dog. Liability applies   regardless of owner’s knowledge of any dangerous propensities of the dog.   Liability does not apply if dog is in enclosure; is protecting owner or other   innocent person from attack; or injured party was trespassing or harassing,   abusing, or tormenting dog.

Texas

Tex. Health & Safety Code Ann. §   822.007; 822.012; 822.031; 822.041; 822.042; 822.047

County or municipality may place additional   restrictions on dangerous dogs if the requirements are not specific to one or   several breeds of dogs and are more stringent than restrictions provided by statutes.   Dangerous dog must be registered with animal control and restrained at all   times on a leash in the immediate control of a person or in a secure   enclosure. Owner must obtain liability insurance for at least $100,000 to   cover damages from an attack by the dangerous dog and must comply with all   municipal or county regulations/requirements/restrictions.

Utah

U.C.A. § 18-1-1; 26-6-11

Owner strictly liable for injuries/damage caused   by dog.

Vermont

20 V.S.A. 3546;3549

Municipality has the power to regulate domestic   pets/wolf-hybrids, including leashing, muzzling, restraint, impoundment,   destruction, or running at large.   If dog is found to have bitten victim without provocation, the municipal   officials may order muzzling, chaining, confining, or destruction of the   animal.   Owner of dog that worries, maims, or kills sheep, lambs, or domestic animals   is liable to the owner of the animal for said damages.

Virginia

2VAC 5-620-70; 20; 10;    Va. Code Ann. § 3.2-6540; 3.2-6540.1;   3.2-6542; 3.2-6522; 3.2-6539

Dog are to be registered and must wear dangerous   dog tag on collar. Within ten days of dog being determined to be dangerous,   owner must provide animal control officer the following information:   identification that all owners are over eighteen; address where dog is   maintained and name of residence owner; dog’s name, sex, age, weight, primary   and secondary breed, color and markings; two photos of the dog, one front and   one side view head to paw; number of dog tag license; verification that dog   has current rabies vaccination and has been neutered/spayed; evidence dog   will be confined indoors or in proper enclosure or will be muzzled in fenced   in yard until enclosure is built; visible warning signs that dangerous dog is   on premises; proof dog has been tattooed or had identification chip   implanted; and copy of liability policy with at least $100,000 to cover   damages by dog bites. Within forty-five days the owner must provide animal   control with information necessary to locate owners at all times; acts that   resulted in dog being declared dangerous; any other complaints against dog;   lawsuits; and copy of dangerous dog registration.

Washington

R.C.W.A 16.08.030; 16.08.040;   16.08.060; 16.08.070; 16.08.080; 35.27.370

Owner liable to injured party for damages caused   by dog, regardless of former viciousness of dog or owner’s knowledge of dog’s   viciousness. Proof of provocation is a complete defense.   Dog must be kept in proper enclosure and the premises posted with warning   signs that dangerous dog is present. A surety bond is required or a liability   insurance policy for at least $250,000 to pay for damages/injuries caused by   the dog.

West Virginia

W. Va. Code, § 5A-4-4; 19-9-18;   19-20-13; 19-20-14; 19-20-21; 19-20A-8;

Anyone keeping a vicious dog must have a license   from the county assessor and the dog must be kept securely to prevent injury   from someone lawfully passing through/entering the property of the owner.   Owner is liable for damages caused by any dog running at large. Owner liable   if dog kills, wounds, or worries sheep, lamb, goats, swine, rabbits, or other   livestock if the dog is out of the enclosure of the owner of the dog.

Wisconsin

W.S.A. 174.02; 174.042

Owner liable for any injury/damage caused by dog.   If owner is aware dog has previously injured a person/property, owner is   liable for two times the amount of damages.

Wyoming

W.S. 1977 § 11-31-105; 11-31-301

Owner of dog is liable for all damages that   result from dog worrying, wounding, or killing sheep or other domestic   animals.

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