Prior Vicious PropensitiesIn order to recover damages for a dog bite, the law requires that the plaintiff establish that the owner of the dog either knew or should have known of the dog’s vicious propensities prior to the bite . Once such knowledge of the dog’s prior vicious propensities is established, an owner faces strict liability for the harm the dog causes the plaintiff
One Free Bite MythThe law recognizes that there are circumstances where, although a dog has not yet bitten anyone, its vicious nature is still easily apparent. Under those circumstances, the dog’s owner is strictly liable for the harm the dog causes, even if the dog’s owner was successful in the past in keeping the dog confined or restrained.
Prior Similar ActsThe owner’s knowledge of a dog’s prior vicious propensities can be established by proving prior acts of a similar kind by the dog of which the owner knew or should have been known. This may be established by evidence that the dog had been known to growl, snap, or bare its teeth, or that the owner chose to restrain the dog and by the manner in which the dog was restrained.
When a dog acts in a manner that would not necessarily be considered dangerous but nevertheless that dog reflects a tendanvy to act in a way that puts others at risk of harm, the dog can be found to have vicious propensities.