Dog bites: Legal responsibility when pet escapes and attacks

pSnarlingDog_3990645_sThe owners of an 11-month old pit bull in Virginia are facing four misdemeanor charges, after their dog jumped the broken backyard fence and attacked a young girl waiting for the school bus. According to Fredericksburg News, the 9-year-old girl suffered severe bite wounds to her legs, arms and back, and underwent surgery at the local hospital to repair the extensive damage. Neighbors claim that the dog kept going after the girl as they were hitting it with brooms to keep it away. The owner was finally able to get the animal inside. The dog will be put down, as the attack was unprovoked.

Dogs are a loyal part of many American families in Las Vegas and throughout the country. However, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention report that nearly 4.5 million people in the country suffer from dog bites every year, half of those being children. Dog owners have a responsibility to their animal and to the community to keep their pet confined and restrained. If a dog should escape from its owner’s property and attack a person or another animal, the owner may be held liable for any damages or injuries that occur.

Dog bites in Nevada

Currently, Nevada does not have a dog bite law. However, a dog can be declared vicious under certain circumstances, according to Nevada statute. Under the legislation, a dog is determined to be dangerous if it meets the following qualifications:

  • The dog must approach a person in such a way that the person must defend themselves against bodily harm.
  • The dog has engaged in this behavior on two separate occasions during a period of 18 months.
  • The dog is not confined to a cage or is off of the owner’s property.
  • The dog is not acting defensively against a person who was provoking it or attempting to commit a crime on the pet owner’s property.

If a dog is unprovoked and kills or attacks a human, causing significant injury, it is considered to be vicious and the owner’s responsibility. In Nevada, the owner of a vicious dog may face felony charges.

Owner negligence

While there is no dog bite law, Nevada does allow dog bite victims and family members to seek compensation under its civil negligence statute. Under this law, the victim must show the court that the owner of the animal was negligent. For example, a victim could argue that the dog’s owner was aware the fence on the property was not secure enough to hold the animal. A victim might also be able to use prior instances of the dog’s aggressiveness to show that the owner knew about the potential danger the animal posed to others.