A dog bite injury may result in major blood loss, broken bones, nerve damage or worse. An attack may put someone in the hospital or result in long-term complications. There’s no denying that a dangerous canine can do serious damage, but it’s often difficult to hold the owner liable, even if someone is seriously hurt in the attack. This is because, in Texas, pets are subject to the “one bite rule,” which gives owners much leeway, even in the event of an attack.
WHY IS IT DIFFICULT TO PROVE LIABILITY IN THE EVENT OF A DOG BITE INJURY?
In several states, including Texas, the dog owner is not liable for any damages the first time their pet attacks, unless the owner had reason to believe the animal was dangerous. If the canine attempted to attack someone in the past or has shown aggression toward people by growling or chasing, then the owner will likely be considered liable in the event of an attack. However, a dog barking from inside a house or behind a fence does not usually constitute worrisome aggression, nor does an attack on another animal. In short, the law is handled on a case by case basis, and victims are charged with a greater burden of proof than most other types of cases.
It’s also easy for the owner to feign ignorance following an attack. If there isn’t any strong evidence of the canine’s aggressiveness, the victim will have little recourse than to take the case to court. Even here, though, the odds are against the victim. This is why so many victims choose to bring in an attorney to help with the case. If there is anything in the canine or owner’s history to suggest a threat, an attorney will be able to find it.
HOW CAN A VICTIM STRENGTHEN A DOG BITE INJURY CASE?
Owners are only protected if they were acting lawfully at the time of the incident. Animal control laws dictate how a canine must be confined and how it must be managed when not in confinement. Some of these laws include:
- An owner may not leave the canine unattended outside while the animal is tethered in such a way that it inhibits the canine’s movement. A canine is more likely to attack if it is approached and doesn’t have the ability to withdraw.
- The owner must keep the canine confined behind sturdy fencing or a shelter when the animal is outside, even if the owner is outside with the canine. Allowing the animal to roam free is immediate grounds for negligence if the animal attacks.
- The owner must keep the canine on a leash when it is outside and not confined. Allowing the canine off leash is a violation of animal control laws and will be considered negligent in court.
- If the canine does attack a person, the owner may be considered negligent if they do not attempt to intercede. In this case, an owner may be held liable even if the animal had not shown aggression before.