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Animal Bites Law

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New York Dog Bite Laws

New York loves its dogs. From Long Island to Buffalo, Brooklyn to New Rochelle, dog owners throughout the Empire State are very attached to their canine friends. With this closeness comes the risk of dog bites, and when dogs attack, the consequences can be severe.

New York’s dog bite laws explain the liability a dog owner has if their animal bites someone. They cover the circumstances when compensation is due, whether an owner had been aware of their dog’s vicious nature, and what defenses a dog owner might be able to use.

Who is liable for damages when a dog bites someone in New York?

If a dog has previously been declared as “dangerous,” New York holds a dog owner strictly liable for a dog bite in relation to the medical expenses incurred by the victim. To be declared dangerous, the dog must have been previously reported for biting, attacking, harassing or intimidating somebody.

Dog owners should note that there are also possible criminal charges and fines related to a dangerous dog attack.

If a dog has not previously been designated as dangerous, or where a dangerous dog victim wants to claim damages for non-medical expenses (such as lost wages or pain and suffering), a victim must show:

  • Negligence on the part of the dog owner
  • The dog owner’s knowledge of the dog’s propensity to violence

A court in New York will look at a wide range of factors – for example, whether the owner was disobeying local leash laws, whether the dog was a breed known to be dangerous, and whether there is evidence of the dog previously acting aggressively. A court will balance all of these factors and decide if the owner was aware of the dog’s nature and failed to do enough to prevent the harm that was suffered.

What are the defenses when a dog bites someone in New York?

In relation to a dangerous dog, strict liability means that possible defenses are very limited. One exception is to show that a dangerous dog had acted to protect a person during the commission of certain crimes (for example attempted murder or robbery).

A police dog that bites someone during the course of police work, such as while apprehending a suspect, is not considered a “dangerous dog.”

In general, the owner of a dog that has acted in self-defense, has been provoked or abused, or has bitten someone while they commit a crime on the owner’s property, will not be liable for damages.

Why do you need a dog bite attorney?

New York’s dog bite laws are particularly complex and a dog bite case will often require specialist knowledge. An experienced dog bite attorney will offer:

  • State, county and city level understanding of dog bite rules, including regulated dog breeds and local leash laws
  • Deep knowledge of New York’s dog bite case law
  • Understanding of the evidence needed to prove dog owner liability

New York’s statute of limitation for dog bites is three years, so it is important not to delay taking advice on a claim. A dog bite attorney will be able to advise how to document medical treatment and other expenses, and how to collect evidence of the dog bite incident.