By: KATIE MARASCO, ESQ.

When does the owner of a dog have a defense against a dog bite or attack on another person? This is not a simple question, nor does the answer prove consistent from state to state.  Dog bite statutes vary a fair amount from state to state and some states rely on common law.  However, the best defense against liability for a dog bite or attack is provocation.  Simple petting a dog will most likely not constitute provocation.

For a provocation defense the owner of the dog will most likely have to show some kind of aggravating behavior by the attacked person towards the dog.  For example hitting the dog, pushing something into the dogs face or even yelling at the dog.  In many states a child yanking on a dogs tail may be enough to show the dog was provoked.  It is important however to determine the applicable dog bite statute in your state.  This is because some states place the burden of showing the dog was provoked on the owner of the dog, while other states require the attacked person show that they did NOT provoke the dog.

Other ways to avoid liability if your dog has bitten or attacked someone is by demonstrating that the attacked person knowingly accepted the risk of a dog bite, for example a kennel employee most likely took on the risk.  Or if the attacked person was trespassing, however many states require that the trespasser was warned of the dog and/or normal negligence standards may be applied.

Because the laws on dog bites vary so much it is important to seek the advice of an attorney in your area before proceeding.  Visit lawinfo to find an attorney in your area.

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