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Dog Bites: What's Your Responsibility?

Recently an elderly Ohio woman died from injuries she suffered during an attack by a pit bull. The dog had previously shown signs of aggression, and was not leashed when it came bounding off his owner's porch to attack the woman. The incident is tragic, and begs two important questions: What responsibility does a dog owner have for preventing and dealing with dog bites? And as a victim, what should you expect following an attack by a dog or other pet?

For Owners For pet owners in several states—including Virginia and North Carolina—you must be aware of the One-Bite Rule. The rule states that dog owners may only be held liable for injuries caused by their dog to another person if you knew—or had reason to believe—that your pet was likely to injure someone. After one such aggressive incident, you are legally responsible for any other injuries caused by your pet. However, “one bite” doesn't necessarily have to be a bite. Growling or threatening behavior towards another person or pet is enough to qualify as “reason to believe your pet is capable of biting another person.” Even seemingly innocent behavior—like knocking someone down by excitedly jumping up to greet them—is enough to put your dog on notice. As pet owner, it's your responsibility to prevent bites and other injuries. Even if you have no reason to believe your dog is dangerous, consider posting a “Beware of Dog” sign to deter strangers from coming into contact with your pet. Always keep your dog leashed in public, and don't let unfamiliar people pet your dog. For Victims We've made a quick video covering what you need to know about viable dog bite cases, but we'll summarize the main points below.

First of all, Virginia law does not recognize vicious dog breeds. Although some states extend this designation to breeds such as Dobermans and German Shepherds, in Virginia there is no legal distinction between a Miniature Schnauzer and a Rottweiler. That means if you sustained a bite from one of these “dangerous” breeds, you don't automatically have a case. To have a viable case, the same criteria of the One-Bite Rule must be fulfilled. The dog's owner must have had prior knowledge that the dog was aggressive for them to be held liable. On the same token, you have to know who the owner is, and find out if the owner has insurance. To prove the dog had previously shown aggressive behavior, you can will issue a Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) request to Animal Control. We may also subpoena vets' records, or simply ask neighbors of the dog's owner—or the local mail carrier—if there have been any past violence. For more information and statistics on animal attacks, visit our website. And If you or a loved one are the victim of a dog attack, call Kalfus & Nachman at (855) 880-8163 for a free consultation, and find out if you have a viable dog bite case.

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