“Who Let the Dogs Out?”

Since the dawn of time, dogs have been man’s best friends.  I have two dogs, a Golden Retriever named Sadie, and a Great Pyrenees named Snowflake.  They are big dogs, but they wouldn’t hurt a flea.  Most dogs are that way.  But occasionally, dogs do things that are unpredictable, including attacking or biting a person.

Dog owners need to be aware that in Kentucky, if your dog bites or attacks another person, or damages someone else’s property, the dog owner is “strictly liable”.  That means that you as the owner of the dog are liable for the harm that was done, even if you were not careless or neglectful in any way in controlling your dog.  This is an exception to the general rule I mentioned in a past blog post that normally, someone is only liable for an injury they cause when they are negligent.

That being said, here are a couple tips for dog owners.

1.  Use Common Sense.  Especially if your dog has a tendency to be aggressive, keep the dog well-secured inside, behind a fence or on a leash at all times.  A “Beware of Dog” or similar sign will not insulate you from liability if your dog attacks another person.  If your dog has ever bitten someone, chances are it will bite someone again under the right circumstances.  Use common sense in controlling and securing your dog, and also educating others who come into proximity of your dog to minimize the chance of another bite or attack.  Failure to do so could expose you not only to liability, but also to punitive damages if your dog bites someone for a second time.

2.  Be sure to have liability insurance.  You may think Rover is like my dogs Sadie and Snowflake and would never bite someone.  But if  your dog is big enough that a bite to a person could do some damage, you should be sure that you have liability insurance that covers dog bites just in case.  Most people who own a home have homeowner’s insurance that protects against liability for a dog bite.  If you are not sure whether you are covered, you should call your insurance agent and check into that.

Note:  If you are landlord, you (along with your tenant) can be liable if your tenant has a dog who attacks someone.  Use common sense on a case-by-case basis in your decision about whether to allow dogs, and which dogs to allow.  Finally, be sure that you have liability coverage on every property that you own that covers dog bites.