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New York State Dog Bite Laws: Who Is Liable for Dog Attacks?

angry rottweiler on blue backgroundDespite being man’s best friend, it is a sad truth that millions of people are bitten each year by dogs in the United States. Even worse, tens of thousands of people need to undergo reconstructive surgery each year as a result of these attacks. Tragically, statistics show that children are most often the victims of dog bites. In fact, injuries to children can be particularly physically and emotionally devastating.

Understanding New York Dog Bite Laws

Under New York law, liability of dog owners for injuries caused by their pets is governed by common law case decision precedent. Put another way, there are no legislatively enacted rules or statutes on the books that directly pertain to dog bite liability such as a “dog bite statute.”

As a result, proving the case can be tricky and requires an attorney who is knowledgeable about the cases that constitute the body of rules that must be analyzed to determine if a case can be successfully brought. You should obtain an experienced Albany premises liability attorney to represent you in your Albany dog bite case.

There is No “One Free Bite” Exemption

Some states and even some New Yorkers believe that a dog owner gets “one free bite” as to the vicious propensities of his or her dog. This is not true. While it may be true in circumstances that the dog has never displayed any vicious propensities, it is not always true and is a misnomer under New York law. Thus, there is no “one free bite” exception for New York dog owners.

There Are No Statewide Leash Laws in NY

Contrary to what many believe, there are no statewide leash laws in effect within the state of New York. Instead, leash laws – also referred to as “running at large statutes” – are determined on a local level. These leash laws vary by municipality. As a result, if you’ve been bitten by a dog, it is important to work with a personal injury lawyer who is familiar with the leash laws in your area.

Dog Bite Personal Injury Cases

Under the current state of the law, to prove liability against the owner of a dog you will need to show that the owner knew or should have known of his dog’s “vicious propensities.” The standard was originally articulated by New York’s highest court, the Court of Appeals, in the case of Collier v. Zambito. The Court sought to unify the law throughout the state in Collier, holding that “vicious propensities” is the “propensity to do any act that might endanger the safety of the persons and property of others in a given situation.”

Proof to establish “vicious propensities” can be, according to Collier, if a dog “ha[s] actually bitten someone . . . [or] growl[s], snap[s] or bare[s] its teeth” at individuals. The court summed up the kind of actions necessary to as if the dog “reflects a proclivity to act in a way that puts others at risk of harm.”

Behavior that has not been held to constitute proof of “vicious propensity” includes accidental bites, such as teething, pulling on ropes, or grabbing treats from a person’s hand. Additionally, “normal canine behavior” such as chasing squirrels or playfully nipping at other dogs has been held not to satisfy the proof requirement. Moreover, if the dog was on a chain or restrained in a cage or room for reasons such as barking, stealing food from the table, or so the dog does not run off, this also cannot be used as proof.

What may come as a surprise to some is that the Court of Appeals in Jahnke v. Bard held that breed alone is not proof relevant to establishing “vicious propensities.” In Jahnke, the issue was whether a young, breeding bull—a domesticated animal—should be held by that fact alone to have vicious propensities. The Court held ruled that it did not.

Thus, knowing the case law rules and amassing the necessary proof to make recovery of money damages for injury resulting from a dog bite makes consulting an experienced Albany dog bite attorney very important.

Bitten By a Dog in New York? Let AMT Law Help You Obtain The Compensation You Deserve.

If you or a family member has suffered a serious personal injury as the result of a dog bite, you may be entitled to compensation. As practicing Albany premises liability attorneys with more than 90 years of combined experience, the legal team at Anderson, Moschetti and Taffany understands how to effectively represent clients who have been injured due to a dog attack. We will work hard to obtain full compensation for you or a loved one injury utilizing our decades of experience.

If you feel you may have a personal injury case on your hands after sustaining a serious dog bite injury, please call us today at (518) 785-4900 for a FREE case evaluation, or fill out our online contact form to schedule a free case review. There is no obligation.

Not sure you really need a personal injury attorney to help you bring your case? Find out why hiring an experienced personal injury attorney to represent you is in your best interest.

Wondering how much your New York dog bite case is worth? Learn about the factors that impact how much you may be able to recover.

Curious about the leash laws in your community? We review the leash laws in a number of Capital Region municipalities here.

Editor’s note: This content was originally published in 2013 but has been updated as of October 2018.

Jeff Anderson

About Jeff Anderson

As the managing partner at the law firm, Mr. Anderson has over three decades of experience handling personal injury and wrongful death cases and has achieved numerous multi-million dollar settlements and verdicts on behalf of his clients. Read More About Jeffrey Kyle Anderson »