Defining Strict Liability Dog Bite Statutes


In the United States, nearly one thousand dog bite injuries result in emergency room visits each day. Each year, losses stemming from dog bite liability are estimated to exceed $1 billion. Laws stating the responsibility of dog owners vary by state, but as of 2015, 31 of those states have applied what is known as strict liability law for injuries inflicted by dogs.

What is Strict Liability?

This form of dog bite liability indicates that a defendant (typically the owner) is to be held responsible, regardless whether he or she had reason to believe the dog was dangerous. Statutes vary by state, but in most cases only two conditions must be met for a plaintiff to be likely to win a decision:

  • Plaintiff must prove they did not provoke the animal.
  • Plaintiff was not trespassing and was legally permitted to be where the attack occurred.

Variances by State

While strict liability does place greater responsibility on dog owners to ensure public safety, states may vary in the wording of such laws. Some apply only when a dog bite occurs on public property; some laws are broader and are worded to include attacks by all animals, not just dogs.

It is very important to be aware of the laws concerning animal ownership in your particular area. Consider dog bite liability insurance in order to protect yourself from potential hardship stemming from a lawsuit, and for the peace of mind it can provide you as a dog owner.