Today we are going to be talking about dog bites. The statistics from the American Veterinary Medical Association states that 4.5 million Americans are bitten by dogs every year and 1 in 5 dog bites requires medical attention. My guest is attorney Gregg Anderson and he is going to talk with us about this important topic. Gregg thanks for being here today.

Gregg: Thanks for having me.

Dei: Well Gregg what if a neighbor’s dog comes into your yard and bites your child and the injuries require medical attention, whose insurance policy pays those medical bills?

Gregg: In the state of Texas we do not have a statute that covers that situation but we do have what’s called the one bite rule. What that means and it’s a little bit of a misnomer because it doesn’t just cover bites, but basically the concept in Texas is your dog has been known to demonstrate dangerous propensities in the past as its either bitten someone or seemed like it was going to bite someone. Then you are charged with that knowledge and you have a duty to protect others from your dog. If on the other hand your dog had never shown any dangerous propensity, it never bit anyone, never seen threatening to bite anyone and then bites someone, probably there is not going to be any responsibility, with some exceptions, on the dog owner.

Dei: Okay can you explain the concept of dangerous propensity from a legal perspective?

Gregg: Sure, dangerous propensity just has to do with whether or not a dog is known or any animal is known to be a danger to other people. So if a dog has bitten someone and you clearly know that dog has a tendency to do that, or even if the dog is known to chase after people, lunge at people, growl or bark at people all the time, a home owner or a dog owner will be charged with that knowledge that that dog could certainly do something like that and has an extra duty to protect other people from harm from their pets.

Dei: Suppose your child was injured in a neighbor’s yard by their dog and that the child was actually harassing or teasing the dog. Does that affect the liability?

Gregg: Yes it certainly could. Texas is a comparative negligence state which means that the conduct of the injured person is also taken into account. So in the case of a very young child, by law a very young child cannot be negligent or responsible for his conduct. So if a 3 year old is harassing a dog so to speak and the dog bites him then that child’s conduct is not a factor in that situation. On the other hand  if a 17 year old who should know better does something to harass a dog and the dog bites the child or kid then that could be a problem in terms of liability. As to who’s responsible, it certainly could be partly the fault of the 17 year old.

Dei: Gregg do other states treat dog bites differently than Texas does?

Gregg: Yes they do. Many states have what are known as strict liability laws in which it doesn’t matter whether or not your dog has bitten someone before, all that matters is that your dog has bitten someone. The home owner or dog owner at that point would be responsible for the dogs conduct, so they don’t have this one free bite rule that we have here in Texas.

Dei: Well that’s all the time we have for today Gregg thank you for being with us.

Gregg: Thank you.

Dei: Until next time this is Dei Lynam for Texas law TV.

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