On Friday night, my wife and I surprised our seven year-old daughter with a new puppy. Lincoln is a nine week-old Cavalier King Charles Spaniel and a delight. Right now, we are trying to potty train and keep him from chewing stuff.
Of course, a dog owner’s responsibilities extend beyond keeping the flip-flops and the rug safe. Responsible pet owners must be sure to vaccinate their dog, keep the dog from running at large and keep the dog under reasonable control so that it does not harm others. While the law does not require it, I also believe a responsible pet owner should maintain adequate insurance (either via their homeowner’s or through a separate pet insurance policy) to help ensure that anyone injured by the dog receives fair compensation for their medical bills and damages.
Every day in this country, roughly 1,000 people will seek emergency medical treatment for a dog bite or dog attack. In 2012, more than 27,000 people underwent reconstructive surgery as a result of a dog bite or dog attack. Tragically, dog bite injuries fall disproportionately on small children. Specifically, children under age 12 represent 50% of the dog bite and dog attack victims.
In 2006, Tennessee changed its dog bite law in response to the death of a Dianna Acklen who was killed by 3 dogs while walking in a residential neighborhood. Before the new law, a dog owner was not responsible for a dog bite or dog attack if the dog had never bitten anyone before. Under the new law, a pet owner must keep the dog under reasonable control and keep the dog from running at large. If the pet owner fails to do so, liability can result if the dog injures someone while in a public place like a park or walking trail or is lawfully on the private property of another.
Of course, there are exceptions to the law:
- The law does not apply to police or military dogs performing their duties;
- The law does not apply if the dog was provoked or harassed by the victim.
- The law does not apply if the dog was securely confined in a kennel, crate or other similar type enclosure;
- The law does not apply if the injured person was trespassing on the nonresidential property of the dog’s owner;
- The law does not apply if the dog was defending its owner or another innocent person against an attack by the alleged victim.
But the biggest exception is if the dog injures someone while on its owner’s residential, farm or non-commercial property or if the dog is on another landowner’s property with permission. Under those circumstances, the dog owner is only responsible for the bite or attack if the owner knew or should have known the dog was dangerous i.e, it had bit or attacked someone before.
If you would like to discuss a dog bite or dog attack case with one of our award-winning lawyers, just give us a call. We will be happy to review your case and answer your questions in a free, no-obligation consultation. We handle all dog bite and dog attack injury cases on a contingency basis. Call us in Nashville at 615-742-4880 or in Murfreesboro at 615-867-9900 or toll-free at 866-812-8787.