Dogs make wonderful companion animals—it is no wonder they are often referred to as “man’s best friend.” There are situations, however, where dogs can become aggressive and may try to defend themselves or their loved ones by biting others. For most dog owners, this situation is an absolute nightmare. So, what can dog owners do to prevent dog bites?
Legal Liability for Dog Bites in Massachusetts
Massachusetts has strict liability for damage that a dog or other pet may do. That means that the owner is legally responsible for the actions of the dog or other animal. The owner is responsible even if the dog was fenced in, on a leash, or was otherwise contained. Owners are still liable even if their dog has never shown any prior aggressive behaviors.
There are a few exceptions to this general rule, and they are based on what the victim was doing at the time of the attack. The strict liability rule may not apply if the victim was:
- Provoking the dog
- Committing some other tort (such as being violent toward another person)
These exceptions allow the dog to defend its territory, its owners, and itself.
Keep in mind that the rule of strict liability applies to the “keeper” of the animal as well as the owner. That means that if you are dog sitting, then you may still be liable if the dog attacks.
Because of this potential liability, some dog owners opt to purchase insurance that covers animal attacks. It is listed in some homeowners policies already, so check your policy or check with your insurance agent for more information. Having insurance may be especially important if you know your dog has a history of aggression.
Preventing Dog Bites
Owners or keepers can do a number of things to help prevent dog bite situations. You may want to consider the following:
- Spay or neuter your dog. Dogs are actually much less aggressive once they have been “fixed.” It will also decrease your dog’s desire to roam around on its own as well. Statistics show that spayed or neutered dogs are far less likely to bite.
- Train your dog. Even the most well-trained dogs can still bite, but spending the time and effort to train your dog will help prevent aggression. Every member of your family should help out with the training as well.
- Socialize your dog. Dogs that are around other dogs and people periodically are far less likely to be aggressive. Visit friends who have dogs or go to your local dog park. Starting when your dog is a puppy is ideal, if possible.
- Supervise your dog closely. Most biting situations occur while the owner or keeper steps away from the dog. Keep a close watch on your dog, especially when it interacts with children. You should also keep your dog on a leash or in a fenced-in yard as much as possible.
- Do not encourage aggressive behavior or barking. If your dog thinks that it is okay or even good to be aggressive, then it is more likely to bite. Discourage this type of behavior whenever possible.
Even the most docile dog can end up biting someone in certain situations, and that can have legal repercussions. If you have been involved in a dog attack, whether you are the victim or the owner, contact Jim Glaser Law today at 781-689-2277 or fill out our online form to request a free case evaluation.